#Icebucketchallenge vs. #droughtshaming

The #icebucketchallenge has taken the world by storm as the ALS validated in their recent blog post. Celebrities, sports personalities and business leaders have stepped up to the challenge to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS) by pouring a bucket of ice water over his or her head and challenging others do the same and/or make a donation to fight ALS within twenty-four hours. The campaign has raised more than $15.5million dollars (as of mid-August). An interview with the ALS Association chief chapter relations officer Lance Slaughter provides more details. The bottom line is that there is no known cause for this disease (although they know that 10 percent of cases are hereditary). At least 30 percent of ALS Association’s expenses are invested in research, another larger proportion supports research at their 40+ certified centers and to mobilize communities in partnership with the federal projects. There’s an estimated 30,000 Americans who may have the disease at any given time. Knowing this and having read the stories about people with ALS, the need to find a cure is great and the millions of dollars from the #icebucketchallenge has the power to have a major impact on the lives of many people.

But what about all of the wasted water? The #droughtshaming conversation is gaining steam on Twitter.

Notice in the AirBnB, Willow Glen, CA.
Notice in the AirBnB, Willow Glen, CA.

In the course of producing 1 million+ videos, there has been a lot of water wasted. Period. It has often been said that water is the oil of this century. Credit to those people who have taken the #icebucketchallenge in a garden or a lake such as my company’s CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin. I’m water-sensitive because of the drought conditions on the West Coast. After visiting California last weekend, I got an up close and personal look at the drought (blame game and policy discussions aside). It is sad and having a negative impact on people’s wellbeing, our nation’s food supplies and economies. According to the UN Water a person needs 20-50 liters of water a day for basic needs. At the same time, humans are over-consuming natural resources at an unsustainable rate. Water scarcity affects every continent. The UN predicts by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions. Water.org reports that a child dies from a water-related illness every 21 seconds. The data and impact of the drought in the US, lack of access to water and sanitation in low and middle-income countries is a real problem. The solution requires systemic changes to our infrastructure, policies and innovation. It requires a lot more action than not dumping a bucket of water on someone’s head.

I’m really glad that people are raising the issue of water scarcity, I’m equally glad that ALS is higher on the social agenda. I’m unhappy that we’re facing water scarcity and we don’t have a cure for ALS. I know first-hand that everyone has a cause that they are very passionate about. I’ve also never come across a social or environmental cause or non-profit that does not deserve the level of support and attention that the #icebucketchallenge has created for ALS. Granted challengers could have taken the alternative #icebucketchallenge 🙂 but we have to be rational, put things in perspective, seize the moment and look at the big picture (with or without a challenge). The sun will go down on the #icebucketchallenge soon. ALS will still be fighting the good fight to find a cure, Charity Water will continue to find ways to deliver clean and safe drinking water, and Xylem will keep innovating to find global water solutions.


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