Am I the Cassandra of California? Or am I just the only person who realizes we are in a drought? An epic drought. A drought that will have profound consequences for our economy (and I mean the US economy!), our food supplies, even our way of life. So excuse me if I’m recoiling in horror from this ALS ice bucket challenge. As a farmer in California, every drop of water is precious to me. And even if our state leaders and most of our population aren’t taking the drought seriously, it still doesn’t make it any easier to see upwards of five gallons per challenge thrown on the ground — where it doesn’t even do any good to the plants as the ice water can shock and even kill many of them. Worst of all, the challenge perpetuates the American attitude toward water that is helping move us toward an ecological disaster of the scale that brings down civilizations. Namely that water, as much of it as we want, is there for the taking. It all flows endlessly out of the tap.
In case you are late to the party, the ice bucket challenge was started in response to Pete Frates, a talented college athlete who was diagnosed at a young age with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The ice bucket was a clever way to link in Pete’s athleticism, by referencing how athletes dump their coolers of Gatorade and ice water over themselves or their coaches when they win. Cute and it’s apparently working. The stunt has gone viral and is raising millions, partly I suspect because, thousands of people who probably couldn’t give a shit about this terrible disease, just can’t wait to jump on a popular social media bandwagon. Now the challenge, as described on the ALS Association website is this: you are tagged by someone to do the dump. You have two choices: dump the ice water on yourself and donate $10 to ALS or refuse the ice water and donate $100. Then you tag three people and challenge them to follow you. Of course, you are free and encouraged to donate as much as you want whichever version you choose. Unfortunately some people are repeating the challenge as dump OR donate. Although judging by the huge amount of donations coming in, I’d guess most people are donating generously. Such is the power of a gimmick. And that’s fine. Maybe people are doing this thing for the wrong reason (to seem trendy on social media). And listen, I’m not nearly as judgemental about trendy philanthropy as this guy or this guy. I see nothing wrong with getting people to do right, even if it’s for the wrong reason. I just hate to see people doing wrong to do right. And wasting water, even if you are not from a drought state, is very very wrong.
But here’s the thing: if you are in a drought stricken or semi-arid place like California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Oklahoma or Texas, YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS WASTING FIVE GALLONS OF WATER. I don’t care how worthy the charity. I would posit that even if you are in a state blessed with abundant rain, you still shouldn’t be participating in something that, by its very appearance, gives the message that we have plenty of water to waste.
Some have criticized me for my stance. One Facebook friend primly reminded me: “It’s about ALS, not the drought!” But still, what if the challenge were to punch somebody in the face? Even if it brought in millions of dollars for ALS, that still doesn’t make the punch a good thing. Wasting water is a very, very, very bad thing.
Even the ALS Association itself recognizes this, as they note on the front page of their website:
Please be thoughtful about water usage! If you’re in an area of the country or world affected by drought, repurpose the water for later use or help spread ALS awareness by becoming an ALS advocate, joining the Walk to Defeat ALS® in your community, getting involved in our fundraisers, or sharing information about this disease via social media. Or you can make a donation instead at www.alsa.org/donate.
See, it is all about ALS. It’s not about the water and the ice. So stop being sheeple. Take the ice and water out of this whole equation and have at it. Even Charlie Sheen found a creative alternative and you know he only has three brain cells left!
So for those of you who are creativity impaired, let me offer some alternatives that still let you post a funny video of yourself to social media.
1. Dump a bucket of ping-pong balls on yourself and then donate. (Bonus points: video yourself donating the ping-pong balls to a youth center.)
2. Hang upside down on monkey bars and let $10, $20, $30 worth of change fall out of your pockets — which you will donate.
3. Pledge $10 dollars to ALS research for every mile you run, do that run, then take off your sweaty sock and put it on your head and dance around singing “Stomp ALS!”. Then donate.
4. Take a video of yourself skating on ice while you humorously explain that you were going to do the challenge but the water froze up. Extra bonus points: cut ice figures that spell out A. L. S. Then donate.
5. Dress up as Elsa from Frozen, rewrite new words to “Let It Go” talking about how we are going to defeat ALS, and make your music video. Then donate.
6. If you absolutely positively MUST do the challenge as written, make sure your ice water is in a small bucket, stand in a larger tub, pour the water over yourself but make sure to catch it in the tub. Video yourself repurposing the water to irrigate your plants. And donate!
7. Go to a car wash where they recycle their water. Ask for a bucket of their sudsy water for your challenge. Do the dump where that water can go back into the car wash recycle system. Challenge all the car wash’s employees to do the challenge with you. Then donate.
Are you getting the idea that, yes, this is about ALS. So it’s not about the ice or the water. If the challenge is to provoke a social response, let’s be socially responsible. Keep it going, folks. Just try to do it without waste and water.
Because really, the point is not the water or the ice. It’s to DONATE.
And you can do that here.