Monday, November 30, 2020

Follow Ontario’s lead with Daylight Saving Time


Many New Yorkers become shells of their happy selves during the winter months. They get smacked with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which, because of a lack of sunlight, leads to an abundance of melatonin which creates depression, hopelessness, malaise and even suicidal thoughts.


Doctors will tell you that you can fight those winter blues with pills and lamp -- vitamin D and light therapy.


That’s all well and good, but nothing is better for the mind and body than the natural source of that -- daylight.


But, getting it is easier said than done.


During the winter months, most working people can’t get outdoors until the weekend because the government took away what precious sunlight we had during the week. Well, more accurately, Uncle Sam didn’t take away the sunlight, he just changed Mankind’s movements around it.


The recent “fall back” routine associated with the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) robbed us of an hour of daylight every evening. That in conjunction with the shortening days as we close in on the winter solstice makes for early nightfall and not much time – if any – to get outdoors after work.


DST’s later sunsets were a blessing, something to appreciate. But oddly, some elected officials want nothing to do with it. Whenever we change the clocks numerous news reports are quick to point out that many bureaucrats at the federal and state levels want to do away with DST and leave everything as Standard Time, which means what we’re seeing now (an hour earlier end to the day) even in the summer months.


Why would they want that?


The lawmakers always cite, beyond the inconvenience of having to change the little hand on their watches, alleged increases in car accidents and heart attacks on or around the day the clocks change.


If health and safety is the reason to call for the end of DST, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to ditch Standard Time and make Daylight Saving Time the standard?


You’d also allow the working class to go outside and bask in the sunshine and get some much-needed exercise on winter evenings. That would help beat SAD as well as our obesity epidemic.


Also, think about the local weather. If DST was the norm, both the morning and evening commutes would be afforded daylight, something that can be a precious tool when navigating bumper-to-bumper traffic in lake effect snow bands. Darkness only worsens driving conditions.

But enough about us adults. What about the children?  


We relentlessly harangue today’s kids about physical activity. We want them to ditch the phones, computers, and televisions and get outdoors to play sports, enjoy nature, and run around like youngsters are supposed to.


Even the National Football League and public schools across the country work together to promote something called Play 60 which encourages kids to have 60 minutes of physical activity every day.


How can they when we just took away a full hour of potential playtime?


For the next few months, a child who gets off the bus close to if not after the four o’clock hour has almost no time to change clothes and get muddy, snowy, or sweaty.


They certainly can’t get in 60 minutes of vigorous play before the sun sets. But, were we to have Daylight Saving Time, they would.


We need to let kids be kids.


Heck, we need to let us old folks play, too.


So, the next time you hear an elected official push for the end of Daylight Saving Time ask that misguided soul to consider the consequences and, while they’re at it, look north for guidance.


Last week, much to the delight of daylight-starved Ontario residents from Windsor north to Fort Severn, the Ontario legislature passed the Time Amendment Act which would make a permanent change to DST as the only time in the province.


The sponsor, Jeremy Roberts, cited the aforementioned positive impacts on health and quality of life and he also noted how it would benefit the economy – people are more likely to move about and spend money on retail under the sun’s glow.


His fellow lawmakers agreed wholeheartedly as the bill passed unanimously.


But, there’s a caveat.


The bill still requires Royal Assent. Ontario’s Attorney General won’t make it law unless there’s a buy-in and passage of like bills in Quebec and New York.


Yes, New York.


So, there’s our cue.


If there wasn’t enough pressure for Governor Cuomo and the state legislature to improve the well-being of our 19.5 million residents, now the heat is on to move ahead with sensible legislation that would improve the outcomes of the 23 million more who reside in our neighboring provinces. The Ontario government will be calling…often. They need us.


Let’s follow their lead. Let’s make it Daylight Saving Time all the time. There’s nothing SAD -- I mean sad -- about that.     



From the 30 November 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Friday, November 20, 2020

Cuomo needs to be more empathetic to WNY


Empathy is defined as "the ability to sense other people's emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling." Basically, it’s what we mean when we say, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”


Empathy is sometimes considered an emotion itself, but many psychologists believe it to be more of a cognitive ability. I consider it a character trait, because the mastery of it or just the attempt to utilize it speaks to the quality of a person.


But, no matter how good we are in our souls, it can still be the most difficult behavior to master. That’s because its stimuli are ever-changing. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to understanding other people. We’re unique. Our life experiences, loves, fears, interests, emotions, victories and losses are distinctly and genuinely ours and ours alone. They all are, in specific ways, visceral to the individual.


We can try to understand others but too often it’s tough. We know what we know, what we’ve done. We don’t know, exactly, what others know, what others have done.


Regardless, we should try at all times when communicating with, working with and serving others.


Empathy takes on even greater importance when we’re in a position of responsibility.


For example, as a parent, we need to understand rather than be frustrated with our kids and how they see and react to the world based on their development and environment. Or, when managing an organization of part of it, we need to understand where everyone has come from, how they see the world and how the world sees them.


Sometimes, maybe more often than not, we fail in doing that.


Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the leader of our entire state, failed miserably in that regard, dismissing the pain of millions of people…millions of people he is responsible for.


During one of his press conferences, in some misguided and deliberate attempt to explain why Western New York is seeing a spike in COVID cases, he said "Western New York never lived the full pain of COVID's wrath.”


That, of course, showed a total lack of empathy.


Cuomo knows his world. That would be New York City and Albany. The rest of the state? That’s not his bag; he doesn’t know Watertown from Wellsville from Williamsville.


His understanding of human suffering in its various forms is based upon that. If you are outside of his realm of understanding, you couldn’t have felt any pain. You had to have had smooth sailing. It was all rainbows and butterflies elsewhere.


Yes, it was really bad in the Tri-State area. But, things were also bad here, in death and in other ways. You can’t say that it was otherwise to those who lived and are still living it.


A friend of the family lost her husband to the virus. Twelve minutes from my house, 28 people died in a nursing home which become an epicenter for fear and loss.


My mom, a volunteer EMT, could be exposed to COVID in her calling, so, during the spring, she would see her one year-old grandbabies from a distance. That hurt her to her core.


A dear friend of mine went into a bout of deep depression because she, too, was unable to see her grandchildren.


Families weren’t able to see their parents in long-term care facilities and those within those walls saw their minds and bodies fade from that.


Those in grief couldn’t hold funerals and find needed support in friends and family.


We all know children who have become withdrawn or have developed emotional or social issues from the lack of contact with friends, family members, and the coaches and teachers who love them.


The police scanner has been alive with misery as domestic abuse and substance abuse have skyrocketed through the pandemic.


I know of someone who, because of the endless news cycle and fear-mongering, has become mentally incapacitated and won’t and can’t leave her home. So many others, at a less-debilitating scale, have developed anxiety.  


Breadwinners of households across the region who, in the eyes of government, were deemed “non-essential” wondered how they would survive the lockdown and future lockdowns.


Small businesses across WNY faced existential crises. You may have seen the viral video of a local restaurateur who tearfully announced the shutdown of his sports bar two weeks ago. That video perfectly summed up 2020 for entrepreneurs. Heck, even I spent the shutdown wondering what my business would look like on the other side of it and if it would even survive to see its fiftieth year.


I could literally go on and on. But you know what you lived. You know what we lived as a region.


So, it only stands to reason that our frustration with Cuomo’s words was justified last week.


He was not empathetic -- or even sympathetic -- to what we saw and felt, what we lost and who we lost.


It’s a lesson for him.


It’s also a lesson for us.


We’re all better people if we take the time to understand others and not demean their struggles.


As they say, “the struggle is real.”      



From the 23 November 2020 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News