The Stupidity of Springing Forward
On Sunday, I will get to sleep for one hour less than I otherwise would have, through the wonders that come with the beginning of daylight saving time. Had I been flummoxed by a pitch-dark commute, frozen at a sporting event, or not had enough sun left over to harvest my crops, this event might’ve been a boon for me. However, with the rise of such wonderful technologies as central heating, the incandescent light bulb, and the John Deere 600 Rigid, I think it’s time that we step back and look at whether or not we need to keep pretending it’s an hour earlier than it truly is.
In the state of Indiana, where the economy is primarily based on agricultural pursuits (much like in Missouri), daylight saving time only came into existence in April 2005. Prior to that date, rural counties generally chose to rebuke the practice of changing clocks, while the more urban regions surrounding Chicago, Louisville, and Cincinnati chose to adopt the practice. The reason? Daylight saving isn’t that great for agricultural communities.
Despite the fact that a large majority of the public seems to think that daylight saving time exists "to help farmers," shifting clocks back an hour actually has the opposite effect. Farmers do most of their work in the morning, to avoid as much direct, burning sunlight in the middle of the day as possible. If nothing else, the practice hurts them more than the rest of the population. In actuality, daylight saving time was adopted in order to help cut energy costs by reducing electricity use in the evening hours. But again, with the rise of modern technology, this isn’t the case either.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, as a result of Indiana’s switch to the system, researchers at the University of California?Santa Barbara were able to determine that an additional $8.6 million was spent on electricity in those Indiana counties which switched over to daylight saving time. The reason? Air conditioning costs. People are home when the sun is still out during the summer, and they crank up the AC to stay cool whereas before, they would just enjoy the sunset.
The federal government passed a law in 2005 that standardized the start and end times for daylight saving time, but as seen by Indiana’s recent shift, said law is not a mandate for state observance. Missouri, a state that depends on agriculture, is desperately trying (like every other state) to keep energy costs down. Why not end daylight saving time? While I’m not advocating some ridiculous Indiana-like system that would keep St. Louis and Kansas City on daylight time while letting the rural counties ignore it, I think that avoiding the issue entirely is something worth a bit of thought. Sunlight is something our bodies are naturally attuned to. Shouldn’t we listen to it when we make our schedules?
Or maybe I’m just angry about losing that hour of sleep.