Monday, March 14, 2016

And Speaking of Conspiracies... Happy DST!

The other day, The Passive Voice featured an interesting interview with Barry Eisler about researching conspiracies for books. Eisler said -and I agree- that while investigating conspiracies can be a lot of fun, sometimes you find out things that are a little frightening. Things maybe you didn't expect to be true, or just hadn't ever considered. Today's subject isn't really frightening, but it certainly is irritating.

Happy Daylight Savings Time...

For those who don't know, DST is the practice here in the U.S.A. of setting the clocks back an hour in the spring and returning them to standard time in the fall. According to our brilliant elected leaders, this practice saves candle tallow... er, wait... energy, by giving us more daylight. They felt so certain about this that a few years ago they even lengthened DST by a couple months, adding several weeks in the spring and fall. DST officially began this Sunday and won't end until October... or is it November now? I'm too tired to look it up.

My family woke up this morning to a dark and chilly home. Darker than last week, thanks to DST. By the time I was up, my wife already had the heater on, and a number of lights turned on. I got up and showered, and my children got out of bed, and we proceeded to turn on pretty much every light in the house. These are lights and heat that we hadn't used in weeks. Thereby saving energy by using them for a few more weeks. Wait, what?

Meanwhile, millions of people all across this great and beautiful country did the exact same thing. They turned on lights -and maybe heaters- that hadn't been necessary for a month or so. Then, bleary-eyed with exhaustion, they headed out to work or school. Today, there will be more accidents than usual. Some of those people will crash their cars on the way to work. Some will get in accidents at work, or on their way home this evening. The number of fatal heart attacks will rise. The number of workplace injuries will rise. The number of on-the-job mistakes will rise, costing companies money. Also, a higher than usual number of people will show up late, or not bother to show up at all, all because of this helpful little practice we call Daylight Savings Time.

Everything I've stated here so far is fact. Studies have proven that accidents, injuries, and deaths all rise for at least a week proceeding the switch to DST. This costs our economy millions of dollars, and hundreds of human lives. You can read about them here, here, or here. Or Here.

Admittedly, on the face of it, DST seems pretty harmless. So we have to get up an hour earlier for half the year. What's the big deal? But then you start looking at the facts, and it makes you wonder what all those politicians were thinking. Of course, the mind instantly jumps to the usual response: Politicians are just bungling incompetents who screw up more than they fix because they're so desperate to look busy. But wait a minute. You and I know that when you drag a couple hundred million people out of bed early, in the dark, it's going to cost you in both money and injuries. That much is common sense, isn't it? How is it possible that these privileged, ivy-league educated politicians (many of them lawyers!) couldn't figure that out? We even have studies proving that fact. These leaders of ours can read a study, can't they? Of course they can!

So what is their motivation? It has been said we should never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to incompetence. When asked why we have Daylight Savings Time and why we expanded the season, every single politician will tell you it was to save energy. This leaves us faced with the option that either these politicians are ignorant of the facts, or that they're liars. I'm not entirely willing to discount the former, but a good argument can be made for the latter. An old rule of thumb in politics: Follow the Money. So where, in this circumstance, can we find the money?

An obvious answer would be energy companies. They know better than anyone that when we switch to DST, we actually use more energy than before. This translates to profits for them. Increased revenue every spring without lifting a finger. And of course, when there's money to be made, getting a law passed in your favor isn't exactly heavy lifting. It's a well-known fact that most of our politicians in the U.S. are bought and paid for by lobbyists and big corporations. Does that jive with the facts we have so far? Check, and check.

Now, I'm not saying for a fact that we have DST because our corrupt politicians are getting kickbacks from energy companies. I certainly can't prove it, and frankly I don't have the energy or resources to launch a full-on investigation. And if I did, nobody would really care. Because nobody considers it a big deal, and when you rant about it -like I just have- they tend to give you that "Oh, another crazy conspiracy theorist" look. And they always will, until they're presented with the facts from a news source they trust, like FOX or MSNBC. Don't hold your breath for that to happen. In the meanwhile, we'll all pay a little more on the heating and electricity bills. More cars will get totaled. More people will be injured and some even killed. But hey, there will be plenty of candle tallow to go around.

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