Instead of pouring ice water over my head, here’s my contribution:
A blog post.
Yes, I get it. The Ice Bucket Challenge, or #icebucketchallenge, is taking the media outlets by storm. Everyone from news anchors to sports stars, actors to political figures, everyday Joe’s from the USA to Greece, are participating. (I was nominated by Nik the Greek who completed his challenge in Greece.)
Don’t get me wrong: I think the movement is really awesome. I’m jazzed that awareness is spreading for ALS (although I’m not sure how deep the awareness extends—do people who make these videos even know what ALS stands for?)
I will tell you! It does NOT stand for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, though that is another name for it. It stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. There’s a great etymological breakdown on the ALSA website of that name, and because I (emphasis) learned something, I will share it here.*
*I’m pretending it’s in my own words, but I mostly copied it verbatim**
**This is a statement that nearly all of my English students could have added to their papers but didn’t.
Let’s start with A-myo-trophic. In Greek (how appropriate. Nik!), the prefix “a” means “no” or “without.” (For example: Apathy, a-pathy means no-pathos, or no sympathy.) So, we are without something. Myo refers to muscles (myocardial infarction, anyone?)(“heart attack” for you non-medical peasants) and trophy is something you win at a tournament. Just kidding. Trophy refers to nourishment. Muscles that are without nourishment “atrophy,” in case you’re familiar with that term. In essence, from the word “Amyotrophic” we have “No Muscle Nourishment.”
Then there’s Lateral. “Lateral” means up and down.
NO IT DOESN’T!
It means side to side. This identifies the areas in a person’s spinal cord where we’re seeing damage. As it degenerates, it leads to “Sclerosis,” which means a hardening of the area.
ALS could thus also be named: “No muscle nourishment along the spinal cord that leads to a hardening in the region.” I can’t imagine why they’d shorten it to three letters.
As you may know, the result of the disease is devastating. The brain increasingly becomes unable to initiate or control muscle movement, which can lead to total paralysis and eventual death. The cause of the disease is not understood and there is no cure, so the reason we want to raise money is so we can invest in research, treatments, and therapies to provide those who are affected with hope.
(Side note: Multiple Sclerosis is another disabling disease that has an unidentified cause and operates in a similar way, interrupting the neuron’s signals between the brain and spinal cord with the rest of the body.)
Okay, so if it’s such a worthy cause, why am I being all Barack Obama about it and refusing the challenge?
(Yes, that’s right. He refused. George W. Bush, on the other hand, accepted, and you can watch that video here)
It’s not for the logistical reasons that I won’t do it, although I AM home alone without a refrigerator to produce ice or sink from which to get water because my house is undergoing renovation. As I saw from the kids who did it in front of a gelato shop (breaking news: Jenny visits a gelato shop!) who borrowed the resources FROM the gelato shop, it’s possible if I want it to be. But there’s a different reason I don’t want to participate and it’s this: I don’t want to contribute to the water that’s being wasted to complete the challenge.
It may sound dumb–next she’s going to say we should all take ten second showers!–but hear me out. People aren’t dumping Shigella-infested water on their heads (um, gross); they’re using clean, drinkable water. Now as someone who spent a year working with a non-profit organization to raise money for Water.org, I can tell you that 780 million people lack access to clean water, and 3.4 million people die from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes each year.
As a comparison, that’s almost twice the number of people who die from all types of cancer and heart disease each year combined.
I suppose if it weren’t for the nature of the “ice bucket” part of the challenge, it would likely not have gone viral, so I don’t want to tell everyone THEY MUST STOP. I, however, don’t want to add to the growing number of gallons that are being wasted.
I challenge anyone reading this to pick a cause, either of the ones I mentioned or one of your choosing, and spread the word.
Just for the record, I posted the above blog before I saw this: MATT DAMON! I unknowingly supported your cause. I think this makes us best friends or kindred spirits, right?
Check it out!!