The Darkest Hours
In March of 2022, the U.S. Senate approved the Sunshine Protection Act. If the bill is approved by the House and signed off by President Biden, it will make daylight saving time permanent all year round in 2023. This means that, in some parts of the country, people will wake up to complete darkness as late as 9 a.m. during the winter months. This will raise many nationwide questions. What is the purpose of this bill? How many people are actually willing to make that change? What accommodations will need to be made? Whose idea was this anyways?
Senator Marco Rubio’s Sunshine Protection Act was introduced to Congress in 2018 and reintroduced in 2019 and 2021, before finally passing by unanimous consent. Research says that all year round daylight saving would benefit the economy and reduce energy usage, seasonal depression and crime rates. In spring, the extension of daylight hours into the evening boosts people’s mood and, in turn, increases energy and productivity. One can argue, though, that the change in weather and the promise of warmer days ahead can be just as much a cause for this effect.
Every year we move our clocks back an hour in November and live by standard time until March comes around. Then we move an hour forward into daylight saving time once again. This means we observe eight months of daylight saving time and four months of standard time. The period of observation has lengthened since the U.S. enacted it in 1918 during World War I. Germany was the first nation to adopt daylight saving time in 1916 in attempts to conserve fuel. The time shift was unpopular in the U.S. and did not take effect again until World War II for the same reasons. Since its first introduction, the measure has been repealed, enacted and modified many times, until coming to a more stable adaptation in the 1970s.
But let’s not forget about the Second Dark Age of 1974. President Nixon passed a bill in 1973 called the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act, during a national energy crisis in desperate hopes that people would use less electricity. The late sunrises caused car accidents and worry from parents. No one wanted their children walking to school or waiting for the bus in the dark. People didn’t like driving to work without the sun. The strange shift in daylight hours also caused a disruption in people’s circadian rhythm.
How much will the foretold daylight saving benefits hold true when the winter months come around? It’s likely that people will have a rough start to their day when the sun doesn’t rise until as late as eight or nine in the morning. People don’t like change unless change is inevitable. Making the 9-to-5 commute worse than it already is would garner a mass of complaints across the country. Cranky commuters may not be appeased by that extra slice of light when they get off of work. Nobody is more frightening than parents when it comes to protecting their children. Nothing but trouble will come out of this, I’m sure.
As they say, history repeats itself. Yes, more sunlight is nice, but so is sleep.
Art by Amber Duan