Well tonight I have to reset all the clocks in the house – how is it – “spring ahead, fall back”? So since it’s November I guess I set them back. I have never liked day saving time and have never understood why we have it. I offer some explanation and clarification below.
I have an exceedingly time-sensitive constitution. A change in time screws up my brain, my insides, my equilibrium and my opprobrium. For example I have a fairly accurate internal alarm clock. Usually at bedtime if I tell myself I need to get up at six o’clock, or five, or four, I do, and very precisely too. The imposition or lifting of daylight saving time messes up this handy alarm clock and it takes a long time to get it back in synch. Additionally, the one to three hour changes imposed by an airplane flight within the US cause havoc to my system and internal schedule. Even the more gradual time changes imposed by a cross country car trip mess me up. And for a metabolism like mine the massive changes imposed by the “jet lag” of intercontinental flights is absolutely cataclysmic. Melatonin doesn’t work, sleeping aids don’t work. Only time, and lots of it, gets me back in balance after the crippling blow of east – west or west – east transcontinental flight.
And all this makes me wonder – why on earth do we have daylight saving time anyhow? One of the states in which I live, Arizona, while foolish, reckless and embarrassing in politics, e.g. Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is really considered and wise when it comes to daylight saving time – it doesn’t have it. We refuse to participate. But on the other hand, the huge Navajo Reservation within Arizona does observe daylight saving time. But the smaller Hopi Reservation within the Navajo goes along with the state and does not observe it. So….when driving across these areas in northern Arizona in the summertime, be prepared to change your watch not once but twice. And if you drive from adjacent New Mexico through northern Arizona and these reservations, you will change time not twice but three times. Oh, and three times back again when you are leaving.
Back to my question of why we have daylight saving time. Well it has an interesting history. First, in addition to his tiresome and cliched maxims that inflicted so much pain on us as children, like “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and “a penny saved is a penny earned”, we have the venerable Ben Franklin to thank for originally conceiving of the idea. Then around the turn of the last century George Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist and William Willett, a British outdoorsman, both promoted the idea in their respective countries. Eventually daylight saving time was formally advanced by Robert Pearce, a British MP, but the Parliament was wise enough to vote down his proposal. The first country to actually try daylight saving time was Germany in 1915, ostensibly in order to save fuel to conduct its war. Then for the same reason it was adopted by Britain and also by the US when it entered the war. This egregious practice of violating the laws of nature then went away for several decades, only to emerge again in the US in 1942 as a way to assist the war effort. President Roosevelt imposed it all year long, calling it “War Time”. The time zones were Eastern War Time, Central War Time and so on. But at least nobody had to “spring ahead” or “fall back” since it was imposed permanently. Later, after the confusion and inconvenience of a hodgepodge of states, counties and even municipalities choosing to adopt it or not, the US standardized daylight saving time in 1966 with the Uniform Time Act with only Arizona and Hawaii successfully petitioning to be left out.
One of the most dominant responses to the question of why we have daylight saving time is that it was needed by farmers in order to provide more daylight hours for planting, cultivation and harvesting of crops. Well, this response is dead wrong. Farmers generally oppose daylight saving time. Being fairly intelligent they simply get up when the sun rises to start their day’s work and conclude when the sun sets. To reset their clocks is an inconvenience to farmers – it just messes up market times and milking times.
And what about the other reasons that have been touted to retain this needless practice? Some claim that it saves energy. It does not and likely does just the opposite, extending the need for air conditioning and increasing other energy consumption through extending other human activity. But golf courses make more money with the longer summer day. Well maybe golfers could rise earlier and get on the course more quickly. Daylight saving time “increases recreational opportunities”. I don’t know about this one either because movie theater attendance actually goes down with the imposition of daylight saving time. Countries and states that don’t ascribe to this dreadful practice don’t seem to be suffering. I know Arizona doesn’t. And Hawaii certainly doesn’t appear to have an evening recreational problem either.
Moreover, in the most heavily populated countries of Europe, tucked firmly in the boreal reaches of the northern hemisphere where the summer day is already impossibly long, why on earth would you want to extend a summer day when the sun already sets at 9:00 PM on standard time?
Some countries are considering dropping DST or have already stopped it. Recently Turkey decided to do what Roosevelt did during World War II in the US – stay on “summer time” year round. Turks will not be moving clocks back this fall. And in the US many states, among them Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, new Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington, have considered joining Arizona and Hawaii and abandoning the practice. And recently California joined the group, a good sign since California usually leads the rest of the states in keeping up with the times.
There are many reasons to drop daylight saving time. As noted above studies have shown that energy use actually increases with the extension of daylight hours. Obviously moving clocks ahead or back, or choosing to not move them, creates havoc with airline schedules and the timing of business phone calls and financial transactions. There is certainly lost productivity in the workplace when clocks are moved ahead or back. And there are safety issues for people driving to or from work in the dark and, more importantly, for children being picked up or dropped off from school in total darkness.
So considering all the above, changing our clocks twice a year seems like a needless and inconvenient practice and needs to be scrapped. Let’s stay on standard time year round, or once we change to daylight saving time, let’s stay on that all year. It just doesn’t make any sense to keep changing our clocks. We’re not gaining anything – the day is still 24 hours long.