Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Stop the clocks

It’s past time we stop moving the clocks back and forth for daylight saving time (DST) twice a year.
It’s a myth that the need for DST had anything to do with farmers. Farmers have long been accustomed to starting their work at sunrise, meaning that changing the clocks twice a year was pretty inconsequential to them. The original purpose of daylight saving was to enable industry to save energy by aligning the work day with the amount of daylight available at a given time of year, making a society-wide time change seem necessary.
But now, for better or for worse, our work lives are less tied to set hours in factories and mills. Working from home, gig jobs, shift work, and generally irregular hours increasingly define how we live.
Now that the purpose for DST has become a relic of history, there is no longer any need to mess arbitrarily with everyone’s sleep schedule twice a year. Research shows how important a reliable, consistent sleep schedule is to a healthy lifestyle. While getting up one hour earlier might not be catastrophic, none of us wants to do it unless we have to. And with DST, we have to.
As more and more people come to realize that DST is outdated, there has been more and more talk of ending it altogether. Only Saskatchewan and Yukon have acted on that idea and leave the clocks alone year round. There is some discussion that Quebec, Ontario and the state of New York, along with a few other states, might end the practice together so as to avoid any disruption the move might cause to the region’s fairly integrated economy. Yet it still hasn’t happened. While Ontario has passed a bill in 2020, it won’t come into effect until Quebec and New York State follow suit.
What seems like a relatively minor issue is symptomatic of a bigger challenge: the difficulty governments face in changing anything, especially when the issue has inter-jurisdictional implications.
With respect to DST, the advantages of nearby jurisdictions deciding to drop it in synchrony are self-evident, given all the cross-border interactions between neighbouring provinces and states. While it seems as though this synchronicity could be accomplished with a few phone calls between leaders, followed by some very straightforward legislation, where do you stop? Quebec and Ontario might prefer to wait until New York comes along, but no doubt New York would want to wait until Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are ready, and so on across the continent.
Certainly there are procedural barriers to overcome, and it is going to take political will. But that is what governing a province or a country is all about.
The ongoing delay in addressing as simple an issue as ending DST makes you wonder how and when our governments will ever be able to tackle more complex and consequential issues such as the health care crisis, the housing affordability crisis, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or any of the many pressing issues for which solutions exist yet are not being pursued.
We need to start seeing significant action on many fronts by our elected officials. In turn, this implies that we, the voters, become sufficiently informed and engaged that we can imbue them with our sense of urgency. Why not start on something easy by ending daylight saving time and stopping the needless interruption of our sleep?


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