Look, ALS is a terrible affliction, and it’s certainly a worthy cause to raise both awareness of and donations towards the treatment and, hopefully, cure of. But, this entire business of “the ice bucket challenge” is now teetering on the verge of self-parody, thanks in no small part to the “only in America” levels of clean water waste it’s generated. Of course, people don’t like to be told that their well-intentioned behavior just might have a downside to it, and if you have the audacity to point this out, you risk being told to “lighten up” and stop “voicing your opinion where people are trying to have a good time.”
By no small coincidence, I’m typing this just as FXX is running their Every Simpsons Ever marathon. It’s like life imitating art! HOMER BAD MAN! MONORAIL! MONORAIL!
You might have read articles online such as this one, which calculates the amount of clean water already used. You might even have read past the article to the comments section, where thoughtful readers take considerable pride (and disdain) in pointing out that the water used in these challenges evaporates, eventually forming clouds, and falls back to Earth in the form of rain. And while that’s true… it kinda has to ACTUALLY FUCKING RAIN in order to complete the cycle.
I live in Southern California, where I’m pretty sure it hasn’t rained since the late 1980s. I live in a community where water usage is actually factored into the homeowner/renter fees, and everyone pays the same amount regardless of their actual water usage. The flipside of this is that the Association actively discourages things like washing your car or watering your lawn, asking us to take our cars to a car wash, and to let the community’s sprinkler systems handle the irrigation chores.
We’re currently in a drought. One so severe, that our Governor declared a State of Emergency in January of this year, mandated water conservation last month, and is now planning to impose restrictions and/or fines to enforce that mandate. Many businesses have installed waterless urinals (which is kind of a frightening concept) in an effort to save that gallon-per-flush. And don’t get me started on the people who actually refuse to flush a toilet unless they’ve taken a dump in it. Come on, THAT shit’s extreme.
And this is in California, the most populated state in the Nation, and one of the 10 driest states in America. Just imagine how things are in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, or Nevada, to say nothing of other countries where rain is more of an urban myth than a reality. Maybe you’re getting tons of rain over there in New Jersey, Indiana, Massachusetts, or Louisiana, but we’re fucking parched over here!
Ever see that South Park episode where Cartman teaches Starvin’ Marvin about appetizers, and how you eat them before your main meal in order to make you more hungry? Remember the look on Marvin’s face as Cartman tosses away each unfinished appetizer as the next one arrives? That’s kind of what I’m getting at here.
Another article you might have seen is this one, which provides a nifty graph to illustrate how many gallons of water are used to grow, cultivate, and prepare common food items, all of which are considerably greater than the 5 gallons used in the average ice bucket challenge, therefore, “the ice bucket challenge isn’t a waste of water.”
Let’s assume that all of those statistics and amounts shown in the graph are indeed accurate and factual. To compare the use of water in necessary and life-sustaining actions (cleansing, irrigating, and hydrating) to the act of dumping 5 gallons over yourself is simply irresponsible journalism. Waste is still waste. The amount of water used to produce one pound of cheese has absolutely nothing to do with ice buckets. That’s like saying an SUV gets really shitty mileage & eats up gas like nobody’s business… so it’s cool to just pour a few gallons of gas out into the street.
So, the next time you’re about to accept the ice bucket challenge from a buddy, or issue it to another, stop for a moment and consider one or two of the following. Bonus points if you consider all three.
1. Take the audience out of the equation. Pretend for a moment that we don’t live in an era where everyone has a video camera and easy access to online hosting where all the world can see the footage. If the ice bucket challenge was just you sitting alone in your living room, dumping a bucket of water on your head, and nobody else would ever see it… would that be wasteful? Would you still do it?
2. Take yourself out of the equation. If the ice bucket challenge consisted solely of you taking a 5-gallon bucket of water outside and pouring it out onto the street… would that be wasteful?
3. Take the water out of the equation. What if, instead of water, the challenge was to take your family’s dinner spread, sweep it all into a bucket, and dump it out over yourself… would that wasteful?
Support ALS research. Donate. Jump into a fucking pool fully clothed with the cameras rolling if you have to make a show of it. I applaud your intentions and efforts, really. They’ve brought this truly great cause to a new level of awareness, and that’s a truly good thing. But stop kidding yourself. You’re wasting water. Five gallons may not seem like much, and maybe it’s ultimately not much. But it’s still a waste.