Lessons of Darkness

Should America ditch its biannual clock changes?

End Standard Time

This past week has been unusually depressing. No—it’s not midterms, stress, or the dry weather that leaves our throats raw. Darkness has set in at 4:30 p.m., and more than half of the average college student’s waking hours are now spent at night.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The spring/summer’s Daylight Saving Time (DST) should be year-round.

Quite simply, Standard Time has no reasonable justification. Since Sunday’s clock rollback, there are four-and-a-half hours of sunlight after noon, and five-and-a-half before. DST reverses this. Having more sunlight in the afternoon gives us more waking hours to exercise, makes people happier, and has been shown to cut electricity usage and even lower traffic fatalities. Even the economy is better, as retailers sell more when there is more afternoon sunlight.

Changing clocks is also confusing and costly. Millions of dollars of productivity are lost because people forget to change their clocks and miss important events for a day.

The only semi-reasonable justification for Standard Time, then, is that farmers need it. Why, I can’t quite figure out. But even if they really did need it, our concessions to farmers are already excessive. We already spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unnecessary farm subsidies to prop up American agriculture. Must we conform our schedules to farmers’ whims as well? Farmers should have to adjust their alarm clocks, not everyone else.

Year-long Daylight Saving Time is green, safe, and economically sound, and based on personal experience it will make people happier. Long live sunny afternoons!

Adam M. Guren ’08, a Crimson editorial chair, is an economics concentrator in Eliot House.

Late-risers shouldn’t have all the fun

The average college student probably finds Benjamin Franklin’s oft-quoted “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” a complete load of crap. After all, many of us are functionally nocturnal.

But while 20-year-olds might relish the extra hour of afternoon daylight afforded to us by the switch to Daylight Saving Time (DST) every summer (i.e. , the opposite switch to the one we made on Sunday), adopting DST all year round (and abandoning the fall/winter Standard Time entirely) would be a mistake.

In 1907, William Willet proposed in his pamphlet, “The Waste of Daylight,” that DST is beneficial because it “adds” more daylight in the evening hours, when people are better able to take advantage of the sun’s rays. “Under the most favorable circumstances, there then remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal,” Willet wrote. “If some of the hours of wasted sunlight could be withdrawn from the beginning and added to the end of the day, how many advantages would be gained by all.”

This is fine for the summer, during which post-work walks or scrimmages actually take place. It’s stupid, however, for the winter, when people who have to rise early would need to spend an extra hour in the cold and dark pre-dawn. Privileging the late-risers for the entire year (by doing away with the recent switch back to Standard) would be wrong.

Most important, without the switch back to Standard, none of us would ever experience that blissful moment every fall when we look at the clock on a Sunday morning, realize we get to set it back 60 minutes, and settle down for another hour’s sleep.

Emma M. Lind ’09, a Crimson editorial executive, is a history and literature concentrator in Winthrop House.