A little longer than a month ago, most people in the U.S. set their clocks forward one hour to welcome in more sunlight each day.
And in November 2023 — because the recently proposed Sunshine Protection Act, which aims to make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent, was passed by the Senate and President Biden — we may not have to change our clocks ever again.
That may sound good at first — especially for the outdoor industry, which would likely benefit from the extended hours of daylight—but it might not be as great as it sounds.
What many don’t realize is that if you make DST permanent, you get extra hours of sunlight in the warmer months, but fewer hours of sunlight in the colder months. Even less than we get now with our current twice-a-year clock change.
The extra sunlight in the evening will be nice and studies show it could have benefits including improved mental health, less crime, and less accidents. But if we don’t learn from history we’re doomed to repeat it, which might be exactly what we do if the Sunshine Act gets passed.
In 1973, President Gerald Ford made DST permanent. Just a year later, he reversed the decisions because the winters were so brutal that it wasn’t worth it to keep DST year-round. Children went to school in the dark, and though it sounded nice to have an extra hour of sunlight in the evening, you have one less hour of sunlight in the morning. For parents, that means children go to school in complete darkness.
And the evidence for improved public safety has been contradicted by other studies and is misrepresented. Plus, beyond the fact that less than half of the people in the U.S. right now weren’t alive to experience the one year of permanent DST, morning light is more effective against depression than evening light, so having more light in the evening may hurt mental health more than it helps.
If someone were to ask me if year-round DST is good for the outdoor industry, I’d say this is one situation where the gain is worth the cost.
One study estimates that having DST all year round would cost the U.S. nearly $450 million annually. Not to mention, the reason it was introduced in the first place was to save energy, which it has now been proven not to do in over 40 studies.
We may not want to change our clocks twice a year, but permanent DST isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
If we had to decide on one or the other the better alternative is permanent ST, because according to sleep scientists that’s what our bodies respond better to — our circadian rhythms thrive much better on ST, and not changing the clocks at all during the year can also help with sleep health.
I do think outdoor business would increase with permanent DST, but we need to think beyond business. Business is important, but first and foremost we’re people, and we shouldn’t sacrifice our health for the economy.
This story first appeared in sister publication Casual News Now.