The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Doing the wrong thing for the right reason

The Ice Bucket Challenge is not a novelty. Reaching about 1.2 million hits through Facebook videos and 2.2 million hits on Twitter between July and August, the phenomenon of so many charitable donors and volunteers willingly pouring ice cold water over their heads in support of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis patients (ALS), became “the thing” of this year’s summer. But why did so many citizens of America— not to mention celebrities and even presidents (George W. Bush, not that he deserves applause), decide to come out for a cause—when the general public and social media have never been as concerned for previous causes?

The reality is, as sad as it may be, the typical American narcissist would love a little more attention.

While ALS estimates about 5,600 diagnoses a year—Heart disease (596,577), Cancer (576,691), Alzheimer's disease (84,974) and Diabetes (73,831), all range as the leading causes of death for Americans for the year 2013, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Personally, I do not believe in supporting one cause over another. In an article on the website Faithit, Bo Stern wrote about being with a husband diagnosed with ALS and shared that some people against the challenge may not "realize what it’s like to face this insidious disease and then realize that it’s nearly invisible to the rest of the world."

Their success in raising national awareness should continue to be congratulated. But the reality is so many more lives of people battling hazardous conditions in underdeveloped nations could be saved with that amount of money. Of course, I am not saying that the ALS Association did not rightfully receive those donations; I am saying that if we had a little more altruism and conscientiousness towards similar causes, the world would be a better place. Furthermore, we cannot deny the insinuations that participation is not coming out of an altruistic society.

As for charities and organizations watching the ALS Association with envy, Doug White insists that they do not waste their efforts and rely on such a gimmick. As the director of the Master of Science in Fundraising Management program at Columbia University, he claims that “40 to 50 percent of new donors don’t come back," according to Forbes. As Americans we seem to tire of new exciting things quickly.

The ALS Association raised about $1.35 million in just two weeks, in contrast to the $22,000 raised in the same period last year (ALS Association confirmed on FOX News) before the ice bucket challenge.

And contrary to what some may believe, the ice bucket challenge does not make you feel as ALS patients do. “Freezing” and “paralyzing” is not the same condition. By any matter, participants could have simply made a direct money donation and avoided throwing gallons of water down on their heads.

So while Americans fumble around to buy pounds of ice and filling our newsfeed with videos of themselves looking “very cute” while dumping our limited water supply, they should consider that California has been declared to be in “the driest year in recorded history.”

Governor Brown asked all Californians to increase their efforts to conserve water, instructed agencies to send water to farmers at a faster pace, and demanded further protection to vulnerable wildlife and preparation for an extreme fire season, according to the California Department of Water Resources. Improvements for 2014 are nowhere to be seen and Californians cannot afford to be wasteful.

Although the ALS Association suggested to “repurpose the water used” after noting public concern, this advice is no longer useful for the estimation of more than 60 million of gallons already used. According to Jason Ruiz of the Long Beach Post, “The average American household uses 320 gallons per day, which means that based on this estimation, nearly 19,000 homes’ daily water usage has been wasted.” Not to mention the additional gallons of water used in group videos.

To think that only 2.2% of the world’s water is available for human use and many of us already throw gallons of water away down our shower drains, sinks, and toilets—another millions of gallons going down to the sewers, does not put our country in a better condition. Food prices are going up on account of crops drying out. Fracking is certainly not helping our situation by wasting thousands of gallons for a single well.

So my message to SMC students and the citizens of America—please stop throwing our water away. We throw plenty of it already. Be conscientious. And next time you consider a cause, leave your inner narcissist behind.