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A prescription for sunshine

November 10, 2023

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

It’s 4:15 p.m. You step out of your lecture hall, tired from the hours of classwork and seminars, hoping to be greeted by the beautiful Maine sunshine. A brief respite from the grind. A literal light in the darkness.

Except, that does not happen. The sun has set. Campus is dark, lit only by soft ambient light fixtures across the place we call home. While these lights are beautiful, they serve as a reminder of what is not there: the sun. This is the reality of exiting Daylight Saving Time (DST). As we entered back into Standard Time on Sunday, the atmosphere and aesthetic of campus changed for the worse.

DST is when clocks are advanced (typically by one hour) in the spring and set back in the fall, altering what we call Standard Time. We propose a permanent shift to the brighter reality of DST.

Our state government here in Maine shares our concerns. The state legislature has previously passed legislation dictating that the state remain permanently in DST, meaning we would always enjoy an extra evening hour of sunlight. Because of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, the law cannot be enacted without federal legislation first allowing states to remain permanently in DST.

Legislation of this kind has, in fact, moved through Congress. In 2022, the Sunshine Protection Act passed through the Senate but failed in the House.

Though the future of permanent DST in our state—and all over the country—is bleak, we support it, and hope both our state and national legislature continue working on making it a reality.

Maine is the northeasternmost state in the United States. Considering that the Eastern time zone starts over 1000 miles to the west, we are deeply affected by the shifted time, with the earliest sunset at 4:02 p.m. Maybe this indicates a need to be in a different time zone, but that is an argument for a different (and possibly brighter) day.

This flip-flopping between time zones has tangible consequences on our health. Johns Hopkins University has found that the spring shift detrimentally affects national health. Risks of stroke and heart attacks go up immediately following each year’s “spring forward.” Johns Hopkins also found that rates of fatal car accidents increased by six percent. Studies have also shown that the switch from DST to Standard Time—”falling back”—has adverse mental health effects. Scientists claim that the sudden advancement of sunset may cause depressive episodes at a higher rate than normal. It is time to end this shifting and ground ourselves, and we believe that a permanent shift to DST is the ideal way to do that.

A permanent shift to DST carries its own health risks. A 2018 study suggested that a switch to permanent DST may increase the risk of heart attacks, which may be associated with disruptions to circadian rhythms.

It is hard to know if our proposed change will prove more beneficial than the current system, but we all deal with the very real physical and mental health effects of changing the clocks every year. In one direction or the other, it is time for change, and we choose the direction that is sunnier.

Campus—and all of Maine—has had a cold, dark week. Though an extra hour of sunshine may seem insignificant to some, we feel it represents a future that is brighter. Literally.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Robeson Amory, Janet Briggs, Sara Coughlin, Lucas Dufalla, Emma Kilbride, Sam Pausman and Juliana Vandermark.


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