Opinion: Is it time for a change?

Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a junior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Recent studies have shown the one-hour switch this past Sunday does more than anger bar-hopping college students. It turns out that we might not be saving as much as we used to from Daylight Savings Time.

So, one might say, what is the problem with DST? It has been in effect for more than a century, and nothing has really gone wrong. I enjoy the extra sunlight and all of the energy being saved. Think about the farmers! It’s because of them that we have it, right?

Well, not exactly.

In 1784, Ben Franklin, living abroad, proposed the Parisians add one hour of sunlight to their days to conserve candlelight. And, might I add, he was stating this in a satirical fashion, suggesting in the same address that “cannons be fired upon sunrise … to awaken the [lazy].” In 1907, William Willett, British inventor and great-great-grandfather of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, supported Franklin’s lighthearted idea.

Willett asserted in his “Waste of Daylight” that by knocking off 80 minutes from the month of April, the gained sunlight would not only decrease lighting costs but also make people more cheerful.

Many of the countries involved in World War I and II — except for Britain— took up this pledge and turned back the clock one hour to — you guessed it — save energy. In 1966, DST went national in the U.S., with Arizona and Hawaii being the only two currently rejecting the act. Today only 37 percent of the world subscribes to DST. So does this one-hour switch really save energy?

The National Bureau of Standards has stated that DST has no effect on energy savings, and a 2006 study shows only a 1 percent increase in residential electricity use. It is the electricity used during that extra hour that offsets the energy saved by the lack of sunlight. A New York Times columnist puts it simply: “Benjamin Franklin was right about candles … but he did not consider air-conditioners.”

It is not just electrical energy that is of concern; we must consider the bodily effect, as well. Altering one clock affects the health of another: our biological clock. Farmers agree; their livestock runs on a biological clock as well.

According to a study by the U.S. National Highway and Safety Administration, car accidents during the week after the switch increase by 17 percent, and the risk for a heart attack increases, as well.

Researchers from the University of Notre Dame showed that SAT scores from students in DST states are significantly lower than those that are not. And I thought I was the only one heavily affected by sleep deprivation in high school.

So what can we do? Some say we should move the switch back to Saturday, giving our bodies more time to adjust their rhythm. Lifelong DST activist Phillip De Rosa goes as far as suggesting we get rid of the whole thing and unite the world via “Global Standard Time.” Whatever it is, I think it’s time for a change; we are no longer living in the age of austerity that Mr. Franklin was living in.

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].