WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?
Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.
Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.
…Personal change doesn’t equal social change.Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Changes Does Not Equal Political Change (via america-wakiewakie)
allonsy-to-pigfarts-phan said: Will you do the ALS ice bucket challenge?
Probably not, partly because I am still recovering from meningitis and so the thought of doing anything out of bed is a bit overwhelming, but also for other reasons. I worry this makes me a totally humorless party pooper, but…
ALS is a terrible disease and there isn’t enough research money devoted to it. Raising money for ALS research is important, and while some people complain that the whole ice bucket challenge thing is mere slacktivism, the ALS Association has raised millions of dollars it otherwise wouldn’t have raised. And that’s great. This has been an extremely successful campaign, and I think it’s wonderful.
That said, I have mixed feelings about tying fundraising (or awareness campaigns) to stuff like the ice bucket challenge. Here’s the question: Why are we raising money for ALS instead of raising money for pediatric cancer research or food aid or for domestic violence shelters?
I feel like the answer to that question ought to be, “We’re raising money for ALS because ALS research is underfunded and can benefit from these resources,” not, “We’re raising money for ALS because the ice bucket challenge is a thing on the Internet right now.” If our philanthropy is dictated only by what happens to bubble up to the surface of the Internet’s consciousness, we’re not making careful choices about how to distribute our limited resources.
And when it comes to charity, everyone has limited resources. Whether you give $5 or $5,000,000 a year to charities, there will always be good causes you cannot fund. So you need a very good answer to the question, “Why did you donate to X and Y?” because there will always be a Z—a very worthy Z—to which you did not donate.
This is not meant in any way to diss those who’ve participated in the ice bucket challenge: it’s an important cause and it has been tremendously successful. And I certainly don’t want to strip the joy of giving and sharing from charity. Sarah and I are just focused on trying to make sure our giving is driven by need and the opportunity to create lasting change.
EDIT: Tumblr user mockmewithgrace points out that it isn’t just a question of donating to X over Z; campaigns like the ice bucket challenge raise the total amount of money donated to charity; i.e., money that would otherwise be spent on beer instead gets donated to ALS research. This is a key point that I failed to consider above; I wrongly imagined charity as a kind of zero-sum game. And insofar as campaigns like this increase the total amount given to charity, they are I think unqualified successes.