Monday, August 25

Why I Declined the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

* Disclaimer: I did not write this to shame anyone who already has or still wishes to participate in the ALS Bucket Challenge, nor did I write it to offend and/or hurt anybody living with or otherwise affected by ALS. I wrote it to open up a dialogue about philanthropic attitudes (or lack there of) here in the United States, to offer my perspective on said attitudes, and because I’m curious as to the perspectives of others on this issue, so please feel free to fire away in the comments section and thank you in advance for reading with an open mind :)

1. Water

No, not because California’s experiencing an epic drought  which is so bad it’s literally making the Earth's surface rise, btw  but because the ALS Bucket Challenge has so far resulted in the combined waste of more than 6 MILLION GALLONS of presumably drinkable water to raise money/awareness for the approximately 30,000 people living with ALS in the United States at any given time . . .

Now, 30,000 is a big number. I’m not saying it’s not, nor am I saying that what those individuals and those close to them go through isn’t utterly gut-wrenching. What I am asking you, though, is to imagine trying to explain the concept of the challenge to any one of the 5,000 children who die A DAY due to lack of clean drinking water in sub-Saharan African countries ALONE.

(That’s roughly 2 million deaths per year, just to put that number into multiple perspectives.)

And here’s the real kicker:

We don’t need to do any research to save those lives. We just need to give a sh*t.

2. Faux Altruism

You know exactly which people on your newsfeed I’m talking about.

I have a few of them on mine too, and subsequently thought long and hard about whether or not to even include this as a reason because the last thing those people need is more attention.

3. “Awareness” & The Fund Vaccum

While the exact origins of the ice bucket challenge differ depending on where you’re getting your information, earlier versions of the rules seemed to mean for donations to be “paid forward” in that challenge-ees who failed were to donate to a charity of their challenger’s choice, whereas those who succeeded were free to donate to one of their own choosing before challenging others and so on, the idea being that awarenesses were “exchanged” and as many charities as possible got a piece of the pie.

It didn’t become the ALS Bucket Challenge until the ALS Association recycled and re-marketed this strategy, and whether or not the rules were intentionally muddled to specifically benefit ALS or if that part of the rules was simply lost in the process of the challenge going viral like in a game of telephone  it’s not only effectively preventing other charities from riding the fund wave, but possibly even diverting regular donations away from them, which begs the question:

With donations nearing $80 million dollars, at what point should ALS have to pass the torch?

When does it officially lose its underdog status?

For while it’s impossible to quantify the worth of certain such causes, it’s important to remember that there are still plenty of them out there that need our time, money, and awareness just as much as ALS once did  if not more so now because of the challenge.

This guy pretty much nails it.

4) The ALS Association Funds Animal Testing

Entirely putting aside that this could not be more out of line with my personal beliefs as an animal lover, statistically it’s a poor use of donations. Pamela Anderson was the first celebrity to bring this to the public’s attention in regards to the ALS Bucket Challenge via her Facebook page, and while she’s admittedly not the best source, after doing some research of my own it’s hard to disagree with her argument:

“According to the FDA, 92 out of every 100 drugs that pass animal trials fail during the human clinical trial phase. Sophisticated non-animal testing methods — including in vitro methods, advanced computer-modeling techniques, and studies with human volunteers, among others — have given us everything from the best life-saving HIV drugs to cloned human skin for burn victims. Trying to cure human diseases by relying on outdated and ineffective animal experiments isn’t only cruel — it’s a grave disservice to people who desperately need cures.”

5. I already donate/educate/volunteer, and no one had to challenge me to do it

Not only is it annoying to be publicly challenged to do something I’ve already been doing minus the YouTube video, frankly it’s somewhat “icky” to me that we need to be more or less peer-pressuring each other into helping out our fellow human beings (to say nothing of endangered species, our rain forests, the oceans, you know, the planet in general).

And believe me, I get that no one wants to be “that person” who brings the conversation down by bringing up all the terrible things happening all over the world every single day and why we need to care about them. I get that we all only have so much time, money, and/or energy, and that sometimes while caught up in the teeny-tiny whirlwind of our own lives it genuinely goes over our heads that we can make a difference . . .


The ALS Bucket Challenge has shown us that.

The thing is, we are 100% capable of donating, educating, and/or volunteering 100% of the time, and what would be even cooler than dumping buckets of perfectly good ice water over our heads is if we lived our lives that way a little more often, and not only when it’s trending.

XO, Mal

* Author’s Note: In lieu of the ALS Association I’ll be splitting my donation between the San Diego Humane Society & SPCA (where I rescued my dog) and Charity: Water as well as looking into additional upcoming volunteer opportunities with Warrior Foundation ~ Freedom Station here in San Diego.

Also, for anyone who shares my same feelings about animal testing, here is the link to Humane Seal's website so you can better inform yourself about a non-profit’s research practices before donating.


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