Late tonight (aka Sunday morning) is the start of the deep blue funk. Clocks are set back one hour at two a.m. Soon sunset will be a little after four o’clock. (In Maine, it’s before four p.m.) Vitamin D will only come in bottles from CVS. People start lusting after mac and cheese, custard and other comfort foods. It’s hard to get warm. Like Smokey, Winnie, Yogi and the other bears, we lug our quilts and head for the cave.
But wait! A Massachusetts legislative commission headed by Senator Eileen Donoghue reports that a solution lies in moving to year-round Atlantic Standard Time, the time zone to our east. Though federal law specifically bans staying on Daylight Saving year-round, moving to the Atlantic Zone would have the same effect. New Mexico, for example, would have to move from Central Time to Mountain Time to get more sunshine year-round. By contrast, the state of Nevada is urging Congress to allow states simply to pass year-round Daylight Saving Time.
Back in the ’90’s, the Atlantic Rim Network urged that Massachusetts and New England move to Atlantic Time for competitive advantage, making Boston the capital of the Atlantic Rim. Congressman Ed Markey started nibbling at the problem years ago when he got Daylight Saving extended at both ends, spring and fall, now starting the second Sunday in March and ending the first Sunday in November. One of Markey’s original arguments was that, given fuel costs, providing an extra hour of daylight would save on energy costs.
Today, there are all sorts of arguments, some more credible than others, for making the adjustment apply year-round. They are economic: retailers would benefit from the additional hour of daylight. There are studies that measure the impact on crime, which reportedly would go down by depriving thieves of the cover of that extra hour of darkness. Research is also related to health: there would be an extra hour after work for outdoor running and fewer heart attacks, which are said to increase in the transitional period after clocks are set back. All of these pale in comparison to the impact on mental health, optimism and sense of well-being, from the reduction of seasonal affective disorder.
Here’s what the opponents say. Kids would have to walk to school in darkness. Around here, parents and educators have been lobbying for years for later start times and citing the positive public health impact of having them more awake before lessons start. The financial markets would be disrupted. Nonsense. Those markets are 24-hour global, and traders already get into the office – or work early from home – on staggered times. Television broadcast schedules would be disrupted. Again, nonsense. We’ll still find This is Us, and, when it comes to “live” news programs, stations have long received “feeds” from the networks an hour before air time.
Atlantic Time already includes eastern Canada, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and several South American countries. Should Massachusetts once again among continental entities be “the one and only?” We often take pride in that. This time around (pun intended), we should probably make the change in concert with other New England states. New Hampshire and Maine are already looking to coordinate with Massachusetts. We should invite New York to join us, but not wait for them. Florida, too, has proposed a “Sunshine Protection Act.” Doesn’t that already make you feel better?
Meanwhile, the sun will set tomorrow at 4:33 p.m. and earlier and earlier until December. We’ll still be depressed until the return of Daylight Saving Time in March. I’ll dutifully set back the clocks tonight and medicate myself with left-over Halloween candy. But, c’mon folks, let’s get with the movement and push for Atlantic Standard Time so we don’t have to go through this in 2019 or beyond.
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