Sunday, August 31, 2014

The MND Ice Bucket Challenge

On Friday evening, for the second time this week, I took a navy shower.
Note: Typing that I realized that maybe I should have prefaced that with: a "navy shower" is not a code name for any variety of sex act. Well, it might be, but not how I'm using it, and Urban Dictionary is on my side for once on this.

What is a navy shower, you ask? It's pretty simple. Turn on the shower, soak your body in water (remember that your body retains very little of the water that passes over it, so it won't need to be on for long), turn off the shower, lather up a storm, scrub, turn on the shower to wash away suds and rinse and stuff.
There.
You're now effectively showered, using only a fraction of the water and a portion of the energy that a standard shower would use.
Since an average shower is estimated to use anything from 32 litres to 64 litres to 132 litres of water it's safe to say that your average shower uses more water than could fit into any reasonably sized bucket in your home.

Why do I mention this?
Well, because "wasting water" is a one criticism of this:


Well, not that specific video but all of 'those' videos.
The Ice Bucket Challenge video.

The Ice Bucket Challenge, as critics will race to tell you, started as a way for celebrities to avoid paying to charity - pay up, or pour down. The cause, to raise money for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also called Motor Neurone Disease. For whatever reason this caught on, spreading across celebrities, social media, regular media, regular people, back to social media, and continues to spread even now. And no good act goes without being criticised...

Ashley Burns at Uproxx has a good take on the criticism of the challenge, but because I typed most of this before I saw that I'm still gonna go ahead...

"You're wasting water!"
There are people who need clean water all over the world, all of the time. When you flush your toilet (because of a general necessity, or because if you throw a balled up tissue into a regular bin the spider could crawl back out with a strong will for vengeance, and a hundred beady eyes that all know what you look like!), when you have your shower, when you tell yourself "I should be drinking 2 litres of water every day!" or "I should pre-hydrate before I go to the gym!", that's all water that you use that isn't being put into bottles by you and posted to your nearest developing country.

I'm assuming that people are posting water to developing countries, otherwise there's no way that the water I dunked over my head could conceivably end up overseas anyway.
There's the "water cycle" diagram I remember from geography class in school... 
Reproduced here in non-copyright-infringing 'Dave Doodle' form.

... but even that was never clear on the scale this all acted over, so my limited understanding is that developing countries are pretty much screwed by geography and prohibitive postal fees.
Can anything be done to help these countries? Yes, organisations exist to help the billion or so people in the world who do not have access to clean water.

Anyway... Do you buy bottled water because you don't trust tap water? Congratulations, it takes 1.39 litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water
Beer? 4 litres of water needed to produce every litre.
Wine? 4.74 litres of water for every litre produced.

As a society we are pretty wasteful with water. H*ll, water activists (which, yes, are a thing) say that those numbers above are low estimates.
But trying to single out the Ice Bucket Challenge as being especially wasteful?
I'm pretty confident in saying if water waste from the 'Ice Bucket Challenge' is an issue, it is so fairly simple an issue to offset that it shouldn't be brought up.
If you want you can easily offset the water used, and the energy used to make ice, by havin' one nice ol' navy shower.

"There are other charities who need money."
Yes, there are! There are a f**k-load of charities in the world, as many charities as there are problems. Deserving charities at that!
(Let's set aside my ill-conceived Dave-culture-preservation group, Save The Daves, and its poorly thought out acronym, STD; to say nothing of the hundreds of "Have you got room for STD in your life?" & "Got Dave?" posters I still have in my garage.)
But what are these other charities? Maybe you've probably seen their ads on tv, their posters on buses, t-shirts on supporters, wrist-bands on strangers, stickers in car windows, other things in other places etc...
OK, there they are, but not once have you been compelled to walk over to those things and remind the owner that there are other charities. Not once have you thought "You know what? Those pink ribbon wearing hipsters are a little too big for their boots?" walked over to them and told them that centres for depression, suicide or self-harm need money too, before walking off with a self-satisfied smirk.

No one would do that. Would they? Would anyone begrudge a charity or the money donated to it?
Apparently, yes.
The Ice Bucket Challenge raises awareness for ALS or MND or, you know, whatever you want to say before the polar pour.
And the criticism it receives for this is: Why not all other charities?
At no point is this about NOT giving to other charities, it just so happens that one awareness campaign has caught on. Critics will point out that pouring water over your head is only supposed to be done instead of donating money - and if they want to enforce that, go ahead, but I took the bucket and still donated. Awareness AND money raised.
Good for the charity, right?
Well, apparently, no.
Critics HATE awareness, to them people should just automatically know - through some unidentified form of unspoken cultural osmosis - to donate to all charities and to be actively, though discreetly involved in raising money at all times. I mean, they love that you're reading and sharing their articles, selling ads, raising money for their wallet, with only a swift copy/ paste of a URL on to Twitter and Facebook, but if you want to raise money for charity, you need to find a less visible way of doing it.

"You're just a slacktavist..."
This is still one of my favourite articles on the internet: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/23/18-awareness/
"In a worst case scenario, if you fail someone doesn’t know about the problem.  End of story."

Maybe someone whose relative has cancer leaves a tray of wrist-bands in the office, or bakes some cakes, asking you to donate a little something in exchange for them; I'm sure you don't 'cc' that person on the e-mail telling everyone that those cakes should have been given to a homeless person instead. In fact, I'm sure you don't send that e-mail at all. I'm also sure that you don't then go out for lunch, and return telling people that instead of donating to the cancer charity you gave a homeless person a sandwich, and that people should get out and do something like that instead of basking in the collective ignorance of donating to cancer charities.
We live in a world were multiple good deeds can co-exist. Do whatever good deed you want, do multiple good deeds, give and and give and give and never tell a single other person if that makes you feel good. And it should make you feel good!
But if your reason for doing a good deed is to distract from someone else doing a good deed, or to shame a group of people for for not supporting a different cause, then maybe you need to reevaluate how good a person you're trying to be.
It's something. Maybe just a gesture, but I will make any gesture before I side with anyone who uses words like "slacktavist" or "sheeple".

"It's not about awareness, it's about self-promotion!"
Selling stuff sells stuff. A convincing or eye-catching advertisement usually gets more attention than a hastily scrawled note in crayon on a piece of weathered cardboard, or spreads a message faster than a person filled with good intentions sat alone in a windowless room.
That's how advertising works, how promotion works, how awareness is raised - you get out, buy a billboard, talk to people, sell that message. Can you do this without throwing a bucket of cold water over yourself? Sure; but how many charities do you sit around casually discuss on an average day? On a really good day maybe one. Maybe. But it'd have to be a really good day.
On a bad day you walk by people on the street selling ribbons, you buy your milk in the shop ignoring the ISPCC collection box by the till, you put book back on your shelf pushing a rubber wristband further back, and never give a conscious thought to their presence then/ after.
People are talking about Motor Neurone Disease, talking about people not talking about MND, and talking about people not talking about things that aren't MND. These are all conversations that no one was having before some people starting pouring cold water over their heads, filming it, and putting it on the internet.

Whether or not you choose to do it, is up to you, as far as I know no "No Ice Shame Cults" have spawned up to take people to task for not acting on a nomination. I could be wrong.

Either way, nomination/ no nomination, you're free to donate to whatever charity you want - secretly or to raise awareness for whatever cause.
You're also free to keep on sh*tting on parade of 'Ice Bucket Challenges', but at least be an equal-opportunities cynic and criticise all charity events for not raising money for other charities - that's really the only way to stick by your guns.

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