During the General Assembly of the State Affairs forum, proposals that passed the first round on Friday were discussed, amended, and voted on by all State Affairs delegates. Among those passed was a proposal entitled “Texas Water Quality” by delegate Noah Busbee of Dallas, which, with seven amendments, outlined a plan to improve Texas water quality by replacing inorganic pesticides with approved organic pesticides and imposing fines and other punishments for a farmer’s or vendor’s failure to follow the proposals guidelines. Busbee’s proposal was vigorously debated as delegates motioned to increase the time allotted for undebatable questions and pro and con debates, and the proceedings were interjected with bursts of humor and vehement “nay”s and “yay”s.
“While Texas is the leading producer of wind energy, its water pollution ranks among the worst in the nation. It’s the second worst water polluter in the nation, dumping 16.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the water each year. This is thirty times more than the next state,” Busbee said during the opening statement. The proposal addressed this issue by specifically targeting one source of water pollution (inorganic pesticides), but an opposing argument described by delegate Meera Gangasani stated that water pollutants were also caused by other factors, which the proposal did not address. “In the large scale,
[pesticides are] not really as big of a problem as other issues like industrial pollution and fracking, because those are the main sources of toxic chemicals and I thought maybe this proposal wasn’t as effective in dealing with that,” Gangasani, a con speaker, said.
This argument contrasted to the pathos-filled speech given by pro-speaker Justin Greisz, who described the negative health effects of inorganic pesticides on animals and humans as well as his stance on the importance of environmental protection. Greisz talked about the effects of DDT, a controversial chemical in the ‘60s that was eventually banned by the EPA, and Antisense, which are both inorganic pesticide methods. After mentioning the thinning effect DDT had on the eggshells of bald eagles, he said, “I just want you to remember that inorganic pesticides are killing our national symbol of freedom.” This drew some laughter from delegates in the crowd, and Greisz went on to say, “I know the switch from inorganic to organic pesticides may not be easy, but as said by the famous scholar Kermit the Frog, ‘it’s not easy being green.’” This final statement left the delegates cheering and howling with laughter as Greisz exited the stage.
Although the proposal was seriously considered by the delegates, Greisz chose to use humor and emotion in his speech to balance the facts that were important to the pro argument. “I had the pathos in there to get people feeling like they needed action, but then the humor was to help wind down so it could transition better to the next person,” he said. “It makes the change positive in their minds even though the information is negative.”
The pro and con debate was followed by a series of amendments specifying details of the proposal and addressing some of the opposing arguments. “The chief opposition was that organic pesticides aren’t as healthy and good as they may seem,” Busbee said, and an amendment proposed by Karen Chen addressed this. “Inorganic and organic fertilizers can both have a negative effect on water quality,” she said. “My proposed amendment was to replace ‘organic fertilizers’ with ‘safe alternative organic fertilizers’ because there are some proven by the CDC that are indeed safe and don’t cause negative impacts, like some organic fertilizers do.”
This amendment allowed Chen to vote for the proposal, and changed the minds of other delegates like Gangasani. “Actually I did vote pro for this proposal because one of the amendments was approving certain organic pesticides, because a common misconception is like, organic pesticides are 100 percent safe, 100 percent natural; they can’t do anything bad. But that’s not true, and one of the amendments rectified that,” she said, referring to the amendment Chen proposed.
While the amendments changed many of the delegates’ votes, Busbee’s stance on the issue remained the same. “I believe it is worth the lives that we will change and the lives that we will save to protect ourselves, to protect the environment and to protect our future generations,” Busbee said.