On Tuesday, we witnessed a miracle. The U.S. Senate actually agreed on something – in fact all U.S. senators agreed on something! They unanimously voted for the Sunshine Protection Act. And while I didn’t realize our sunshine was under attack, it’s nice to see them getting along for a hot second.
If members of the House of Representatives vote similarly (Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s considering it) and President Biden gets on board, then Americans may never have to change their clocks, or forget to change their clocks, again. The madness would finally end – daylight saving time (DST) would be here to stay.
Given our polarized political landscape (and our utter lack of sleep after “springing forward” two days earlier), we all cheered when we heard the news, but should we? Is a permanent change – one where we live in daylight saving time forever – really better?
As the bill goes to the House, and I continue to walk into rooms and realize I forgot to change another clock, here are five things that have been on my mind this week:
1. The history behind the entire concept of changing our clocks involves a Founding Father, a guy who loves bugs and Canada.
For those of you who haven’t wasted your time (ha!) going down the research rabbit hole this week, here’s a brief history, according to the good folks at Wikipedia. The idea for daylight saving time was first proposed in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin as a way to conserve candles – he was kidding (I think). Just over a century later, a New Zealand entomologist and astronomer recommended changing clocks back two hours every spring so he could have more sunshine to collect and examine insects – he wasn’t kidding. The concept was finally put into law by our neighbors to the north in 1908.
2. Switching to DST permanently means that it’ll be lighter later, which is bad news for criminals, but good news for our local businesses.
Back in 2015, researchers found that an extra hour of sunlight means a possible 27 percent drop in robberies. I guess even criminals must sleep at some point? Extra daylight also means our local shops and restaurants would likely benefit from more customers, which makes sense – who wants to shop when it’s cold and dark outside?
3. If we stop falling back and springing forward, many of our children will go to school in the dark every winter.
In fact, on the shortest day of the year (December 21), the sun wouldn’t rise until 8:15 a.m. in New York. It’s already hard enough to get our middle and high schoolers out of bed for that early bus, do we want to make it even worse?
4. Perhaps our elected officials should’ve considered the science before rushing to “save the daylight.”
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, we shouldn’t switch to DST – we should switch to standard time. They say our circadian rhythm (our internal clock that tells us when to go to sleep and wake up) is more closely in line with standard time. If we make the switch to DST, we could increase our risks for obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and depression.
More than a dozen other organizations, including the National Safety Council and the National Parent Teacher Association, support switching to standard time.
5. We’ve actually tried this before, and it was a complete and utter failure.
Back in 1974, President Richard Nixon, at the height of the Watergate scandal, signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act in the hopes of saving energy during a fuel crisis. But the experiment, which was scheduled to last two years, only lasted eight months. It didn’t help the country save on energy, and there were several predawn accidents involving children walking to school. Will it be different this time?
Who is right on this? I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I will leave you with one final thought:
Did you know that it’s really called daylight saving time? There’s no “s” at the end of “saving.” However, the correct wording just doesn’t sound right, so most of us say it wrong.
If the bill does pass, there will be one less grammatical error in our vocabularies. That always makes me happy.