John Seven: Ice bucket critics have little to offer


With all the bad things happening in the world, I'm surprised that some people feel the need to criticize a fad that involves people dumping a bucket of ice on their heads in a silly but sincere effort to raise money and awareness about the fatal disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The ice bucket challenge for ALS has sparked some to publicly announce on social media and elsewhere that they disapprove of it the effort. I've seen it called "stupid," I've seen the people who do it called "idiots." I think these words speak for themselves. I don't have to add much to those.

Some claim ALS doesn't deserve the money because it's a rare disease that only affects about 12,000. Only.

I don't know that pitting diseases and charities against each other is a very nice thing to do. The charities anyone gives to, if they give at all, are usually personal choices -- they've encountered something that moved them or caused concern in such a way that they have chosen that charity to donate to. It's their personal choice.

To listen to people within the ALS community, they're thankful for the burst of attention, claiming to be ignored by pharmaceuticals due to the non-profitability of a cure. Some naysayers claim that the money won't necessarily do any good anyhow. It's generally acknowledged that what researchers need is steady funding for decades rather than one huge burst, since Congress has cut NIH funding and decimated ALS research. According to researchers, many important advances are not followed up on because of this, so while this influx of cash couldn't possibly lead to a cure right now, it can be helpful in helping some research continue.

One of the other constant criticisms I see is that people are wasting water. This is, they say, a slap in the face for those whom water is not readily available. That may be true. A brief online search brought about plenty of water-based charities that you might want to give to as well, if that concerns you. But it helps to know some data about our water consumption for context.

I do know that in the realm of water conservation, refraining from dumping a bucket of ice on your head is pretty low. The average faucet flows 2 gallons of water a minute. The ice bucket challenge uses 3 gallons of water per person. Your daily shower uses two to three times more water. Running dish washer uses twice as much. Flushing the toilet is twice as much. The washing machine uses anywhere from four to six times more water. Brushing your teeth uses three times more water.

And look at food. One tomato takes more water to be grown than what is in that ice bucket looming over your head. Ten times more water is used to produce the coffee that goes into one cup. A pound of cheese uses 120 times more water. A pound of pork uses 230 times the water. A gallon of milk requires 325 more times water. One pound of beef requires about 35 times more water than the ice bucket challenge.

I think perhaps there are better wastes of water to be focusing on. And if you do the ice bucket challenge on the same day you skip a shower and keep it mellow if it's yellow in your toilet, you will come out way ahead that day.

People are just trying to make themselves feel better in a world that doesn't offer the average person much hope of control. This is something they can do and can share in. Whatever gets you through the night, people. Does that really require criticism?

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at or at


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