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4 reasons I won’t be doing the ice bucket challenge

Posted on August 27, 2014

Just like bazillion of you, I have been recently challenged to do the ice bucket challenge. Yeah, yeah, to raise awareness for ALS. Funny, how this little detail almost gets lost in the shuffle.

Now I like a crazy challenge as much as the next barbwire-crawling gal (Tough Mudder blindfolded, hello?), yet I will not move an inch off my barbell loving butt to dump a bucket of cold water over my head. Nope.

Here’s why.

1. SLACKTIVISM, MUCH?

The whole movement does smack of slacktivism – the propensity to click the Like button oh so quickly and to do very little else. Post the colour of your bra, raise awareness for breast cancer. I think I just threw up in my mouth.

The original challenge is set up, so that you either dump a bucket of cold water over your head OR donate $100 to ALS. Thus, the vast majority of bucket dumping you witness on the social media is occurring INSTEAD of making a donation, not in addition to.

That’s precious.

“Shut up”, I’ve been told by some (perhaps, not in so many words), many are dumping water over their heads AND donating. it’s clearly working. Clearly.

This must be some alternative definition of the word “clearly” I am not familiar with.

WHAT is working?

Donations to ALS organizations are through the roof. The website for ALS Canada currently reads:
“You have reached ALS Canada. Due to the overwhelming response from the Ice Bucket Challenge, our regular ALS Canada site has been taken down to ensure you can access our Ice Bucket Challenge page.

Now, this is obviously a problem that any charity out there would love to have.

Yet the primary purpose of this challenge was to raise the awareness about ALS. Now, quickly tell me three things about ALS! Without Googling it. What is the main cause of ALS? What are some treatment options? What are the symptoms? No? Nothing?

But! You now have a video of yourself on Facebook, pouring iced water over your head. Wheeeeee! Hell, Tough Mudder HQ is on the bandwagon too!

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The kids participating in the ice bucket challenge is a whole new level of “questionable”. I can only hope that the parents have a conversation with the children, explaining the reasoning behind the fad. Otherwise, it’s just… fun. Awesome, but misses the point completely.

Still think it’s working?

Clearly.

And speaking of all things clear. You know what’s clear?

2. WATER, PEOPLE. WATER!

Clear awesome fresh drinking water. The same water that is currently being dumped on the ground by thousands of people.

Do I think this trend is useless? No. However, it’s hard to argue that it is fucking ironic. Especially given the fact that this year we do not have to go far to witness severe water shortages. I have one word for you – California.

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Want to feel really virtuous? How about cutting down your shower time by a minute or two?

To be clear, the total amount of water wasted in the ice bucket challenge is minuscule compared to the amount of water we (North Americans) waste every day. However, it’s about time we started seeing water as a precious resource. A bucket. A glass. A drop.

3. CHARITABLE DISPLACEMENT

Many health coaches would be familiar with the concept of dietary displacement, while assisting their clients with healthier food choices. Subtracting and eliminating favourite foods sucks. Hence, we focus on ADDING, instead. Do not give up your cookies, your lattes, your pizza. However, ADD at least 2L of water to your day. ADD at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables. ADD at least one serving of lean protein to each meal.

Of course, stomach real estate is a finite resource. the awesome side effect is that by the time, you’ve added all the things above, you hardly have the space for OTHER stuff. (Yeah, yeah, there is always space for ice cream. Grow up.) Ta da – dietary displacement.

The same thing will occur in the context of giving to charity, however, with less positive outcome.

A recent MacLean’s article encourages to consider “where is the greatest need?”,when considering a donation. With the Canadian annual death toll of 600 (compared to 72,000 cancer-related deaths per year), ALS does not quite make the cut as an “urgent problem”.

Harsh? Perhaps. And yes, it does not matter how many people are dying from other diseases, if you are the one diagnosed with ALS. [In fact, this guy probably did more to teach others about ALS, while completing the ice bucket challenge, than the rest of ice-bucketeers combined.]

Let’s assume a typical family spends about 1% of their household income on charity. That would equal $500 a year, if making $50,000. Since money is a finite resource (bummer, I know!), this represents the charity pot available. If I am going to donate $100 to a charity that I have never heard about before (enter ALS.org), I am, hence, donating $100 less somewhere else.

Here’s a question to consider – which nonprofit organizations will suffer as a result of ALS ice bucket challenge? $88.5 million dollars do not appear out of thin air. We take money from one pocket and put it in the other.

4. DESENSITIZATION

Desensitization is “the diminished emotional responsiveness to a stimulus after repeated exposure to it”. Ha! Got that?

Consider the danger of not only sensationalizing fundraising initiatives, but also becoming desensitized to them.

Seth Godin wrote a great blog post, discussing both pros and cons of the ice bucket challenge. The challenges spreads the word and normalizes charitable giving, yes, but also builds the expectation of charity as something that needs to have entertainment value and online virality.

On any given day, you will have someone running 100 miles for one charity, doing a burpee mile for another, and, yes, doing a race blindfolded, for yet another.

What the hell will we have to do next? Inhale a spoonful of cinnamon to raise awareness about lung cancer? 2 girls 1 cup challenge (you probably should not Google this) to fight Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

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To say that there are no downsides to the initiative, simply because it is bringing tons of money to a particular charity organization is short-sighted at best (I try to save the word “dumb” for special occasions).

So, I challenge you. Yes, you.

Not to dump a bucket of iced water over your head – that’s too easy.
Not to donate to a specific organization – finger pointing and forced charity are lame.

But to engage in some critical thought, for Darwin’s sake.

  1. Read about ALS. About water shortage around the world. About other things that affect humanity.
  2. Donate to a cause that is near and dear to your heart. To a cause that you believe in. To a cause that you or your family have been affected by. To a cause that you simply think is cool. I have.
  3. Don’t waste water.

YOUR TURN: Have you completed the ice bucket challenge? How do you select the organizations you donate money to? 

P.S. If this post made you think, please share with others. Thinking is becoming endangered.

Remaining dry this time,
Solo

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