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I’ve Seen the Daylight
But then the politicians took it away.


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I presume to speak on behalf of all early risers when I say that this premature switch to daylight savings that began last weekend is the worst political decision since Congress gave $13 million to organizers of the World Toilet Summit. There we were — in the Mid-Atlantic region, at least — tens of millions of us, nine days ago, on the cusp of spring, waking to the sound of mating cats and the sight of budding dandelions, only to have our thoughtful representatives flush us back into December darkness.

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Children who just a week or so ago were inspired by morning light to jump out of bed for school are now hibernating under their covers like confused grizzlies — albeit smallish, furless ones. In the evenings the same smallish grizzlies are now wired, unable to sleep, tormented by the playground sets still visible in the yards outside.

Sure, once daylight savings had kicked in on the traditional, first Sunday in April, the children would still have needed incentives and/or parental force to overcome the call of the backyard, and that extra push into bed until the end of the school year. But — as if it needed to be said — extra weeks spent enforcing bedtime is nothing like extra weeks spent ripening a Stilton: More is never better. It’s no good if the enforcer becomes tougher, more blue-veined, and more inclined to say the whole thing stinks.

And for what? The Dems who introduced the measure, and the Republicans who went along because the daylight-savings change was tucked into the 2005 energy bill, say it’ll save energy. Not mine, I can tell you that much. If my representative in Congress wants to attach an electricity-generating wind turbine to the posterior of my five-year-old running around crazed in her pajamas at 7:45 every night, he might have an argument, (and I’d be able to get a firmer handle on the five-year-old). Barring that, there are no energy savings to be had.

It’s not that hard to figure scientifically: Wake up in the coldest, darkest hour of a March day, and you’re going to turn on lights and turn up the heating; and shower longer; and make a warm breakfast if you have the time. Unless the additional energy expended in this government-gifted hour of morning darkness is cancelled by any energy saved at night, in office buildings or singles gyms or happy-hour speakeasies or wherever it is that this moral and magical conservation is taking place, there’s a net expenditure, not savings, of electricity.

Skeptical? Talk to the University of California Energy Institute. Scholars there just published a paper calculating that Australians, who have already twice gone through this experiment of messing with their Daylight Savings dates (for good-sport reasons such as accommodating evening events in the 2000 Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games), saw their net energy-consumption increase.

There’s more of a downside to jumping the gun on daylight savings than lost parental sleep. There’s also the ominous “increase in fatal accidents” following the shift to daylight savings that is reported by the journal Sleep Medicine. (Okay, fine, the small rise in accidents involving tired drivers happens every year when we switch. But what sort of person would want to hasten the arrival of this sort of carnage?)

The politicians who approved this daylight-savings madness in 2005 — and they know who they are — should be glad we’re nowhere near election day. Because if the legions of morning-persons I know were going to the polls today — particularly in the morning — the politicians would be toast. In the next election cycle, they will do well to prepare for cries at town hall meetings of “Where were you on the daylight savings issue of 2005?”

Where, in particular, were the pols who claim to feel soccer-moms’ pain? If ever there was a suburbanite’s issue, this was it. The politicians should have seen the national threat on the horizon and defeated it in the name of all that is good and holy. Instead, they said “aye” and “yea.” It’s not as if there hadn’t been an energy bill in 200 years or whatever, and this was their only chance to vote for one. They were clearly asleep at the switch.

Political scientists scrutinizing this daylight-savings atrocity years from now will be sure to describe it as a prime instance of “values-transfer,” wherein the government decides what is good for people and makes them swallow it; like separating one’s papers and plastics, or retiring from the workforce before all one’s hair falls out.

But this instance of values-transfer is way worse. It makes children cry. It causes car accidents. Worst of all, it makes morning people cranky. And if the morning people are cranky, who’s left? For all that cost, the change meets no objective at all, save generating overtime pay for all those computer programmers resetting trans-Atlantic airplane schedules, Blackberries, and Microsoft Windows, which last I checked was still an hour late, on my screen at least.

If politicians don’t get the point, it must mean they’re sleeping-in past 7:15, seriously undermining their claim to be working for their constituents 24/7. If, on the other hand, they do understand the point, they ought to change things back to normal and leave people to their long-established habits. It’s called seeing one’s error in the clear light of day.

Melana Zyla Vickers is a columnist for TCSDaily.com.



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