Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Matt Damon does the stupid ALS ice bucket challenge, but in a good way

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Basically, I think the ALS ice bucket challenge is fucking stupid. I'm all for fighting this awful disease, but surely there are better ways to raise awareness, and, what's more, it pretty clear that many, and probably at this point most, of the people doing it are only doing it because it's gone viral and trendy, not because they have any idea about, let alone actually care about, what it's actually all about. And then there is, to me, the problem that lies at the heart of the matter: this whole challenge involves wasting clean water at a time when clean water is in short supply and drought is wreaking havoc. Not those dumping cold water over themselves seem to give a shit, but I think it's important that we do.

And so it was refreshing to see Matt Damon, whom I generally admire a lot for his activism, find a suitable alternative (see video below):

"It posed kind of a problem for me, not only because there's a drought here in California," Damon explained in the video, uploaded to the organization's YouTube channel. "But because I co-founded Water.org, and we envision the day when everybody has access to a clean drink of water -- and there are about 800 million people in the world who don't -- and so dumping a clean bucket of water on my head seemed a little crazy."

The actor -- who nominated George Clooney, Bono and NFL quarterback Tom Brady to do the challenge next -- said swapping clean H2O from the faucet for toilet water seemed fitting for the causes near and dear to his heart, as about 2.4 billion people across the globe still lack access to clean sanitation systems. Toilet water in westernized nations, Damon added, is still cleaner than the drinking water in many underserved communities in developing countries. 

Does this mean I'll now do this myself? No, it just means I'll applaud those celebrities who do. Even if I continue to think this whole thing is ridiculous, at least in its viral, trendy form.

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  • Michael Hiltzik wrote a great article last week, A Few (Impolite) Questions About the Ice Bucket Challenge. Basically, he questions the whole gimmick philanthropy thing. He points out that ALS is a terrible disease, but it is also a rare disease. And studies suggest that people give a certain amount per year, so if they are giving a hundred dollars to ALS, that's likely a hundred dollars that isn't going to other, possibly more important, diseases.

    I know this may sound a little harsh, but the article is excellent. We really ought to think more about this. As for me, I hate the ice bucket challenge. The idea was that people were supposed to do the challenge if they didn't give the money. Does anyone question that these celebrities are doing both? So why not just give the money and shut up? I think they are doing it primarily for their own reputations.

    But I'm quite fond of Matt Damon too, and I'm not suggesting anything about him or any specific celebrity--just most celebrities in a general sense.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 2:41 AM  

  • I thought, since he prefaced his bucket-challenge with talking about bad water for most of human kind, that he would drink a glass of the toilet water rather than dump it out on his head. I think it would have been a stronger point.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:29 AM  

  • Who thinks about ALS - unless maybe they're thinking about Stephen Hawking or are old enough to remember Lou Gehrig?

    Oddly a perfectly healthy young friend of mine -- age 56, suddenly felt a weakness on her left side last July and within a short time after being able to dance had to be in a motorized wheelchair.

    Sure it's rare, but it's cruel and it can happen to anyone. I'm not sure that money for research will count much at least in the short term, but ice will surely not. Stay warm and dry and send money.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:36 AM  

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