Opinion: It’s time for a change

Published 11:24 am Monday, March 18, 2024

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Daylight Savings Time is once again in full effect and once more we find ourselves caught in the vice-like grips of a semiannual tradition that serves as a peculiar study of human hubris. Few items can rival the audacity of Daylight Savings Time—the annual ritual in which we collectively agree to deceive ourselves, pretending that by changing our clocks, we somehow harness the ability to alter the very fabric of time.

This grand illusion, orchestrated under the guise of energy conservation, has persisted for over a century, leaving in its wake a trail of confusion, disrupted sleep patterns and, at least with me, a questioning of human rationality.

Despite the common misconceptions, it was not due to Benjamin Franklin, whose suggestion that the French do it was meant as a joke and it was not to aid farmers in crop cultivation—they have been among the loudest who have lobbied against it. Even more so, anyone who ever heard that it was to help students not wait for the bus in the dark, is also quite sadly mistaken.

That misnomer comes from the tragically failed attempt to establish it nationwide during the winter of 1974, which caused parents to decry students standing out in the darkened cold. Therefore, it was not daylight savings time that protected students, but instead the direct cause of them standing in the dark in the first place.

No, it instead came about as the result of a slight gentlemen’s disagreement we commonly refer to as World War 1. Once known as ‘War Time’, Daylight Savings Time completed its systematic and unwelcome takeover of our nation’s clocks when it was standardized into acceptance in 1966.

At its core, DST is an astonishing feat of societal persuasion. Governments have managed to somehow convince hundreds of millions of people that by simply moving the hands of the clock forward or back, we can manipulate daylight to our advantage. It’s as if we’ve all bought into a magician’s trick, suspending disbelief to accept that we’ve magically gained an hour of daylight in the evening.

Let’s be honest, DST is the time-tinkering equivalent of cutting off the top of a blanket, sewing it onto the bottom, and then declaring, “Behold, I have created a longer blanket!” It’s nothing short of a collective attempt to cheat the system, born out of the same human hubris that thought the Titanic was unsinkable or that New Coke was a good idea.

The logic behind DST, if it can be called that, suggests a collective willingness to engage in a massive, synchronized game of pretend. Rather than adjusting individual schedules or adopting more flexible working hours to make better use of our oh so precious daylight, we opt to shift the clock—an action that has no impact on the sun’s position or the Earth’s rotation. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and folly that we choose to “change time” instead of changing our habits.

The absurdity becomes even more pronounced when considering the tangible consequences of this charade. The disruption to our biological clocks is no small matter, you haven’t lived until you’ve felt the thrill of DST-induced jet lag without the inconvenience of actual travel. And just wait until you get to experience the documented increases toward the risks of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, slowed metabolisms, weight gain, migraines, mental health deficiencies and cognitive issues. Every single time we make the grand gesture of moving that little hand on the clock outside of its natural inclination we see more than a 5 percent spike in fatal car accidents and a 10 percent increase in reported depressive episodes. All for what? Just so we can enjoy a bit of extra daylight while we’re too groggy to appreciate it?

It’s a cosmic joke, and the punchline is us, staggering around like caffeine-deprived zombies while we all stand marveling at our cleverness. “Look,” we say, squinting into the sunset at 7 p.m., “we’ve defeated nature.” Meanwhile, nature, unfazed as to our very existence, continues its relentless march, utterly indifferent to our little clock shenanigans.

It truly begs the question: Why do we cling to a practice that yields dubious benefits while inflicting guaranteed harm? If not for our personal health, the next logical conclusion would be to assume that it adds some grand aid to the economy perhaps? Nope, wrong again.

The economic rationale that once might have justified DST is under scrutiny now more than ever. The energy savings, if any, are debated by experts, with some studies suggesting that the benefits are even counterproductive. In a world where office buildings and street lights blaze regardless of the sun’s position, the argument that shifting our clocks can lead to substantial energy savings seems increasingly tenuous, if not entirely bogus. It also reigns chaos on international business scheduling and a whole host of other issues that make international relations even more difficult than usual.

Despite the growing chorus of voices calling for an end to this dated relic, change has been slow. Some regions have taken matters into their own hands, choosing to opt out of DST altogether. However, a piecemeal approach only adds to the confusion—creating a cratered and confusing conglomeration of time zones that complicates commutes, commerce and communication.

Traveling across time zones and areas that don’t observe the change is a bit like playing a game of tic-tac-toe, never quite sure if you’re gaining an hour, losing your mind, or just stuck in an airport bathroom unsure of when your flight leaves. The only winning move in my opinion is that we stop trying to play.

The persistence of DST highlights more than anything a curious aspect of human nature—our capacity to adhere to tradition, even when it defies reason. The initial rationales have all largely evaporated away like a steam in the face of modern energy usage patterns and more efficient technologies. Yet, we continue to participate in this biannual charade as if it were some stone-written aspect of the natural world, rather than a weak, ineffective and outdated man-made construct.

This wacky pretense, supposedly started to save candle wax or coal or whatever it was that we were burning through back in the day, now mostly serves to confuse us and ensure that at least once a year, half of us show up an hour late to our own lives. Because apparently, the best way to conserve energy is to mess with hundreds of millions of already habitually sleep-deprived people and then act surprised when everyone’s too tired to remember to turn off the lights.

It serves as a reminder that, for all our advancements, humans can still be convinced to engage in collective acts of make-believe, even to our detriment.

As we navigate through the muddled sleep-deprived hours of Daylight-Savings Time, yet again, it’s high time for a unified approach to reconsider this tradition. It’s essential to weigh the actual benefits against the costs to our health, economy and daily lives. Perhaps the answer lies not in adjusting our clocks but in adjusting our perspective on what truly promotes well-being in the 21st century.

Furthermore, I’d like to know why it was easier to convince everyone to pretend like humanity had godlike powers regarding time when we can’t even convince everyone that the Earth isn’t flat.

In the grand scheme of mankind’s folly, DST is a masterpiece—a testament to our capacity to overcomplicate life in the name of simplicity. As we fumble with our clocks, let’s take a moment to hope that one day, we’ll finally toss this archaic measure in the trash where it belongs.