Categorized | Senior Editorials, Viewpoints

More like daylight ‘slaving’ time

Dan Hanson

This Sunday, people around the country woke up to the yearly ritual of finding an extra hour added to the day when the strange phenomenon known as daylight saving time (DST) came to an end. Most students likely jumped for joy at the unexpected news. Hurrah, the tyranny of an arbitrarily subtracted hour has finally been lifted off of us. Now let’s all go show up to something an hour early and eat dinner in complete darkness.

The truth is, DST is an antiquated notion that North America, Europe and a handful of states across the world stubbornly cling to for outdated, if ever legitimate, reasons. A New Zealand entomologist thought of DST because he wanted extra hours of daylight after work to collect insects. The idea gained momentum in the United Kingdom, where wealthy Parliamentary Ministers decided that  Greenwich Mean Time didn’t give them enough daylight to play a full round of golf during the summer. Clearly, these are good reasons to make everyone change their clock once a year.

Other arguments, such as the need to conserve energy for light in the evening, were tacked on as allegedly legitimate justifications. Many proponents of the system still invoke this justification today for conservation of energy, yet most recent studies show that there is virtually no correlation between subtracting an hour from the summer and lower energy use. Any rationale for DST has either faded into history, been totally capricious, or entirely disproven.

Sure, everyone looks forward to sleeping in for an extra hour once a year, just as much as they dread losing it again in the spring when DST starts again. These don’t balance out into some happily neutral equilibrium for the whole year, but actually have legitimate effects on public health. The discombobulation just about everyone feels, whether it’s welcomed or dreaded, correlates with subtle increases in heart attacks, illness and workplace accidents in both fall and spring. And in relation to our daily lives, we have the inevitable missed lunches and over sleeping.

This time of year, I personally find the adaptation from early nights into way earlier nights beyond depressing, and I’m far from alone. Millions of people with Seasonal Affective Disorder who find their psychological well-being declining with the waning daylight do not welcome the onset of night at 5 p.m. after six months of reprieve. Newspaper delivery boys and morning people may find some benefit in a sunrise that is magically conjured to come an hour earlier, but let’s face it, 99 percent of human interaction and commerce occurs in the afternoon.

If that’s not damning enough, the majority of the world’s countries that once had DST have abolished it. The states that hold on to it are in a shrinking minority. Once again, the United States finds itself behind the curve for realizing that antiquated and pointless traditions are, well, antiquated and pointless.

Whether DST is scrapped altogether or extended throughout the year, no one has any real benefit from those two irrational shifts in an arbitrary time system. Just like the de-planeting of Pluto, DST is another example of humans thinking that re-categorizing uncontrollable natural processes actually means something.

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