May 30, 2024

Supporting science that saves lives and improves environmental health: a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill

Posted by Caitlin Bergstrom

Erika Jarvis of Ohio, Elizabeth Landau, Director of Science Policy at AGU, and Melissa Zamora of Texas

I’m walking the hallways of the Cannon House Office Building, one of the three main buildings that houses offices for members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Walking beside me are Erika Jarvis and Melissa Zamora, both of whom are using science to fight for better environmental health for their local communities in Ohio and Texas, respectively. That’s what drew them here today, to walk the halls of Congress with me. Together, we are asking legislators to support community-driven science. 


As we stride through the marble corridors, it’s easy to feel like this is all too grand, too fancy and out of our league. But turning the corner, we spot a cluster of other advocates out here for a cause they believe in, clad in bright orange t-shirts with the same logo, big name tags, and laughing loudly with each other.


Melissa sits with a staffer from a Texas representative office

This is truly “the people’s house” and was built to let us in to share our stories, our causes, our hopes for the future. Today, Erika and Melissa are here to tell their representatives what community-driven science has done to benefit their local communities. How it has helped improve lives, and how we can do more if we provide more funding for the science that makes that improvement possible.


Erika shares her story of having lead poisoning as a child and how the life-long repercussions from that has led her to fight for environmental health equity in her community.  Melissa tells policymakers how their local community, surrounded by industrial facilities, has no access to testing for heavy minerals or other pollutants in their soils, and they don’t know if it’s safe to eat food they have planted and grown locally.


By the end of the day, both of them are feeling tired but excited, proud of what they’ve accomplished and hopeful for what comes next.


While I hope that all of you will at some point walk the halls of Congress, there’s another quick and easy way to have a similar impact when you can’t be here: writing personalized emails to your legislators. Right now, you can support your colleagues by asking your legislators to support community-driven science.


We make it easy—we have set up a template that you can quickly edit and send through our online system. You just need to add any additional information you want and hit “Send”.

Erika talks with staffers from an Ohio representative’s office.

For the sake of your community, and the communities of Erika, Melissa, and so many others, join your colleagues today from wherever you are. It only takes two minutes to modify our template and hit send, showing your legislators the importance of robust funding for science!


Want to come to a future Congressional Visits Day with AGU in Washington, DC? Sign up for our AGU Science Policy Alerts and get notified in early June when applications open for our September event.


In solidarity,

Elizabeth Landau

Director, AGU Science Policy and Government Relations


P.S.—I was so impressed with the amazing work that Melissa and Erika are doing that I want to highlight it. They are both Community Leaders with AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange program, where Erika’s team is identifying the barriers to testing children for lead poisoning, and Melissa’s team is assessing local soil health to inform community agriculture and natural soil remediation—there’s even a powerful video about their work.