On November 1, 2020, just as the clock is about to strike two in the morning, a thief in the night has been ordered to strike, pushing the small hand of the clock back an hour, robbing us of an hour of sunlight each afternoon until March, the four long months our Covid-19 world needs it most.
Nov. 1 is the end of Daylight Savings Time [DST], that spot in time when the evening commute flips from being dusk on Friday to pitch dark on Monday. Just as the mounting days of cold herd us inside, a backward-looking clock tosses on us an additional blanket of darkness. Surely it can only be seen as poor timing in the extreme as we continue to isolate from the clutches of the coronavirus. It’s just one more thing with which to deal; just one more thing for people who feel like the world has stomped on that one last nerve.
This year, of all years, Americans ask for a little clemency. Let the clock run as it is now set, they say; let it run through the winter, grant us that extra sixty minutes of light each afternoon so that we might better battle the virus’s forced isolation and fears of second or third waves. Give us a little consolation as outdoor dining disappears and social distancing inside becomes problematic. Give us one of nature’s tools to lift people’s moods and to work against the poor mental health that continues to put Vermont’s depresssion/suicide rates at unacceptably high levels. Give us the morale boost we need as we watch Covid-19 case loads increase, with our future remaining as uncertain as ever.
Congress is considering a bill that would offer us a temporary pause to DST. Only for a year. If passed, the clocks would not turn back on November 1 or move forward on March 14. They would remain where they are, which is all people are asking for.
The purpose of the legislation is to avoid disruption, at all levels. People don’t need to have their lives changed; they have been changed enough. Anything that can be done to improve our collective mental health should be pursued, which ridding ourselves of the impending time change would do. In general, the more usable sunlight there is, the more people get outside, which promotes our physical and mental health, it helps in the fight against obesity, and makes traveling on our roads safer. A 2015 Brookings Institution study even showed than an additional hour of sunshine in the afternoon reduced the number of robberies by 27 percent.
Daylight Savings Time is also an antiquated construct and should be understood as such. It was imposed because it was thought to save energy. That has been shown to be false. It doesn’t. There was the supposed benefit of an earlier sunrise, benefitting school-aged students. It’s now understood students are better served with more daylight on the latter half of the day.
Almost every reason in defense of DST has been shown to be inaccurate.
So what is the force that compels the clocks to be turned back in November and forward in March? Political inertia. ‘Cause it’s always been this way. Nothing more.
How many people whisper to you that they can’t wait until the darkness closes in and the clocks are turned back? Close to zero; with the rare Eyore or two serving as obligatory contrarians.
How many people tell you how thrilled they are when March rolls around and the clock moves up an hour, giving us back the time the thieves stole in November? Everyone else.
It does not have to be this way. It shouldn’t. Call your elected representatives; tell them you support having a little more sunshine each afternoon. It would make us all a little nicer to be around, a feat of utter magnificence given the maelstrom that continues to envelop us.
by Emerson Lynn