Darkness descends – changing the clocks is bonkers

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Have you adjusted to the clocks going back yet? I live in fear of forgetting. It’s entirely possible – I once managed a whole holiday on a Greek Island without changing my watch. I just couldn’t understand why we were always the only ones in the restaurant; it was because we were eating two hours earlier than was usual.

However, I did remember to change my clocks the other weekend. Each year, as British Summer Time ends, the gloom descends upon me. Any chance of getting outside after work is gone in an instant.

Now that we are plunged into darkness an hour earlier, our children suffer. Sport and playing outside after school become impossible. The walk home becomes dangerous. No wonder accident rates soar and more and more kids end up travelling home in the car and then zone out in front of the telly.

The environmental implications are bad. The past two weeks, you will have used far more electricity than the weeks before (unless you were unlucky with the storm!). In fact, researchers from the University of Cambridge calculated a few years back that if we didn’t change the clocks, it would save a minimum of 500,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. In a time when energy costs are spiralling, it seems a total no-brainer.

Historically, this clock set up was all for the sake of agriculture. Now even the majority of the National Farmers Union’s members back a change. After all, we do have electric lights for those early mornings in the barn and bright headlights on the quad bikes and tractors. The conditions that livestock live in are far more controlled than when the daylight saving system was first implemented in 1916.

The desire to shift our winter day is nothing new. Back in 1968, we experimented by putting the clocks forward as usual in spring, but then not changing them in October.  The result was ambiguous – no one could agree if it was worth it and so the Government ended the trial.

Life is very different now. Obesity is a growing problem with our children. We know about climate change and that we should be saving energy. There is more traffic on our roads and statistics clearly show that we are more likely to have a crash on a dark afternoon rather than a dark morning because we are tired out after work.

Our politicians are fretting over impossible energy pricing choices. Removing green levies would be yet another backwards step for the environment, but with many people suffering the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma, it is clear that drastic action is needed. Simultaneously, we have been warned of the risk of blackouts this winter. Our need for power is racing ahead of supply.

So why oh why have we just missed this opportunity to help the energy crisis, reduce accidents and increase the activity levels of our youngsters? Life gives you few easy wins, but this is one of them.

It’s not the clocks that should be changed; it’s our mind-sets, and fast.

First published in the EDP and EADT on 1st November 2013

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