Sunday, August 24, 2014

No, I’m NOT Doing the “Ice Bucket Challenge”!

Let me admit off the bat I detest all fads,  media gimmicks, and mass-supported "trends" - especially done in the name of a charity.  If any kind of gimmick or faddish action is involved in a charity response, I’m more than likely to ignore it in entirety. That goes for  athletes wearing pink foot wear during any breast cancer awareness campaign as well as this “ice bucket” challenge currently sweeping the country-  which every manjack and his doggie or pet lizard seems to be het up on copying. Each, of course, trying to outdo the other and politicos (like Dumbya Bush ) even challenging others to get on with it.

So why don’t I submit to the social and media tidal wave and fall in line?

 First, while a worthy cause, ALS has never been one I've supported and I do not intend to just suddenly jump on a copycat fad bandwagon because every other manjack and his pet monkey is. As I said, I despise copycat faddish promotions no matter how popular.  My causes that I consistently support include: The Prostate Cancer Foundation,  St. Jude's Research Hospital, Maryknoll Sisters, Homeless Missions - in Baltimore and Colorado Springs and Covenant House. Given these charities, I've no intention of adding another - and don't believe in "one offs" - especially merely for spectacle.

A second problem I have, let me be blunt: it’s a frickin’ waste of water for a country and world which will very soon be begging for it.  Yeah, ok, one two gallon bucket is no big deal and it's only one person at a time.  I admit that the illusion of minimal waste is convincing. But multiplied by millions of  imitators – each trying to outdo the others- it is. According to a spot on drought and water (with Physicist Michio Kaku three days ago on CBS Early show)  the volume of water consumed so far in the ice bucket challenge would cover all the land from the Pacific coast to the Great Lakes with 4 inches.  That is a lot of water to pour down the drain for any reason, including a charity gimmick.

Apart from that there are plenty of legitimate reasons to question the philanthropic viral sensation of the summer — from its gimmicky premise to the way it overshadows our own government’s slashing of medical research funding . (As former Sen. John Dingell noted two mornings ago, billions have been cut by the Repukes since 2007) .  Look, give me one buck slashed from medical research budgets by the Repukes for every ten that the ALS gimmickry has collected.  If we had the former we'd be well on the way to a cure.

I concede that it’s hard to argue with the over $31 million raised for ALS so far, or the awareness the stunt has raised for this  incurable degenerative disease.  But I submit that if it takes such hijinks to “raise awareness” and get people off their ass to contribute then something is wrong with the people. My other concern: what will happen to the ALS funding when the fad passes into history as it inevitably must?

Now, the story has even taken a new twist as religious groups are beginning to discourage followers from participating — because ALS research at times relies on embryonic stem cells. This week, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati specifically asked Catholic school leaders at 113 schools to “immediately cease” any fundraising plans connected to the challenge, because the ALS Association funds at least one study using embryonic stem cells — “in direct conflict with Catholic teaching.”  (Of course, those of us who are scientific Materialists vigorously disagree with this – but again that is the Catholics’ choice and ought to be respected.)

 Speaking to Religion News Service Tuesday, ALS Association representative Carrie Munk said, “Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research. The project is in its final phase and will come to an end very soon.”

 She added that donors “can stipulate where their money goes and can ask that it not pay for embryonic stem cell research.". This is a rational option and certainly ought to be considered before dodging the donations. But still, I maintain the ALS effort can be helped – and mightily – without all the dumping water gimmickry.

As for the wastage of water issue, as a scientific Materialist I take it as more serious than the embryonic stem cell connection to ALS research.  In the ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47), it was noted that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025.. As they note (p. 47):


When a country’s renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita (what some analysts call the water stress level) it becomes difficult for the country to mobilize enough water to satisfy all the food, household, and industrial needs of its population.”

Market “solutions” are absurd on their face since water is an absolute life necessity not a commercial commodity, or one that a vast population can simply "move to"  to access! (Hint: nations with their own water may not appreciate it!) One cannot and nations will not, “bargain for water” or permit privatized solutions, such as met with major political crisis in Bolivia four years ago. You are looking, in effect, at mass chaos, bloody guerilla style warfare which no country will be able to prevent inside its borders.

The same ‘State of the World’ report noted at present rates of decline and even without factoring in the worst global warming influences – the number of people living in water-stressed countries will rise from 470 million to 3 billion by 2025,  more than a six-fold increase. Add in projected new climate change data and likely effects  and the stressed populations increase nine or tenfold.

The cold, brutal fact is that this planet has limited resources, including potable,  fresh water, so must also have a carrying capacity beyond which human needs cannot be adequately met.

Those who toss out gallons of water – iced or not – when they do the formal ice bucket challenge – are therefore ignoring the planet’s resource – water limits and acting as if there will be abundant stores indefinitely.

There are other options:

1)     Just donate money to ALS research without all the spectacle, ego-gratification,  self promotion.

2)     Do what people in So. California are doing and use a small doll or puppet to dump a tiny bit of water on with a toy bucket. I know, not as dramatic or impressive – when you’d rather show off to friends – but it also gets over the point of water conservation.

        3) Use another act to emblemize your spirit, such as gulping down a beer with a taco or burrito.

        4) Rather than wastefully dump buckets of water, get a group of would be contributors together to jump into an ice cold lake.

I am not saying people shouldn't participate, only to think before they do. In particular,  ask yourself: Is this going to be a continuing support commitment or done only as a one-off as part of a national craze? If the latter is the case, and your support ends with the bucket dousing and one check, then it is a waste of time....and water!

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