---- — Who better to size up the annual moaning over Sunday’s return of daylight-saving time than pop culture’s favorite spokesman for hard science, Neil deGrasse Tyson?
“What would aliens say,” Tyson wrote on his Twitter feed, “if told that Earthlings shift clocks by an hour to fool themselves into thinking there’s more sunlight?”
What would they say?
Maybe they’d get that the daylight available in 24 hours is something we’re compelled to manage and maximize. It’s not a matter of more sunlight. It’s a matter of when.
So our time — early this week, at least — has been spent cursing the dark. It just depends on which side of the day the curses originate, with the arguments between morning and evening joggers breaking down into something akin to a classic, tastes great/less filling ad for Miller Lite.
But maybe the aliens would ask: Are you managing that time the right way?
The pre-dawn scene at Monday’s bus stop and the commute to school suggests there’s room to fine-tune the concept, again.
The Lafayette sunrise was 8:08 a.m. on Monday, the first weekday in this year’s edition of daylight-saving time.
That’s comparable to the sunrises on the darkest times on either side of Christmas break (8:06 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 20, and 8:11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 6).
In other words, that’s a dark walk to school.
The difference? Both of those dates came with the benefit of the gradual adjustment to the morning lighting. Monday was a reminder of what an hour of daylight early in the day means as crossing guards eased into still-black intersections.
Because Indiana was so late to the daylight-saving time game, finally joining in 2006, Hoosiers tend to grouse twice a year as if the time change issue is their own. That includes a niche nostalgia for “God’s time” — when Indiana followed the sun instead of the rest of the country, never resetting clocks. It’s enough to leave newcomers sighing a collective, “Huh?”
But this is less about Indiana or about straddling a natural break between Eastern and Central time zones as it is about just how long daylight-saving time is in play each year.
In 2007, as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the start of daylight-saving time bumped from the first Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March. In the fall, daylight-saving time was extended a week, from the last Sunday in October to the first Sunday in November. (Until the mid-’80s, daylight-saving time didn’t start until the last Sunday in April.)
The argument was that shifting clocks to give more sunlight hours in the evening would conserve energy. Has that happened? Depends on who fields the question — which is a good way to say that it’s likely a wash.
It certainly opened up this Sunday evening, given the warmer temperatures and glorious sunset, for so many people itching to get outside. (Though, I imagine Tyson would be the first to tell you that the sun and atmosphere weren’t paying a lick of attention to the clock when those brilliant reds, golds and maroons splashed across the western horizon.)
Not in dispute is how the earlier time change turns the switch on the start of school days.
Under pre-2007 daylight-saving time rules, the first Monday would have brought a sunrise of 7:22 a.m. That’s an extra 46 minutes of daylight on the way to school, when compared to this Monday.
Those four weeks took the edge off the annual adjustment to the shift from morning to evening light, offering some dawn’s light to temper any lingering grogginess from losing an hour of sleep in the process of springing forward on Sunday morning.
Earlier this year, advocates for moving Indiana to the Central Time Zone lobbied the State Board of Education to join the cause. That sent eyes rolling among the media and in other circles: Haven’t we settled questions about time in Indiana?
Yes, we have. At least, we should have, by now.
Making Indiana a Central Time Zone state would come with its own problems. (Anyone excited for 4:21 p.m. sunsets in December?) But the point they were making — in the case of the State Board of Education, when it comes to getting to school safely — could be solved by returning daylight-saving time to pre-2007 start and end dates.
Do we really need that extra hour of light in the evening while we’re still waiting for spring? Or, as Tyson suggests, are we just fooling ourselves?
It’s time to manage the clock a bit better and reel in daylight-saving time — before a pre-dawn school bus crash or a kid hit in a dark crosswalk forces the situation.
Dave Bangert is a columnist for the Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Contact him at email@example.com.