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Daylight Savings



Let's return to Standard Time All Year!

Christopher Nyerges

Suddenly, as we are driving home from work at the same time, it is dark. It was not dark yesterday at this time. Drivers are more irritated. We have to quickly adjust. It is part of our annual ritual, our relic from the past, where we go back to standard time from daylight savings time.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why must we continue to do so?

Daylight savings time is a manipulation of the basic solar time within each time zone's standard. It was said to be an idea of Benjamin Franklin, and was begun in the United States during world wars one and two, and eventually became "official" in all but two states. Mexico only recently adopted daylight savings time, a result of the U.S. pressuring our southern neighbor to be in step with the U.S. But many Mexicans asked, "What do we need this for? What is the benefit of this?"

Indeed, daylight savings time is like a quaint tradition of a bygone era that refuses to die. It is a pointless habit with little recognizable merit.

David Letterman once asked the question to his audience during his monologue: "Why do we practice daylight savings time? It's so the farmers have more light," he laughed, answering his own question. "But how does that give the plants more light?" That's a Letterman joke for you, but there is a truth hidden under his humor. Most people don't know why we have daylight savings time, and fewer still experience any tangible benefits from it.

There are two often-cited reasons for the use of daylight savings time. One is so that the children can have more light going to school in the morning. But consider: the children have an hour more of morning light in late October, when the clock is set back ("fall back") to standard time. That is, it is the very use of daylight savings time which creates a darker morning as the days get shorter and shorter. The "falling back" an hour merely puts us back in sync with the local time zone. It is the use of daylight savings time that created the problem of less light in the morning, and only in that sense can you say that the "falling back" to regular time gives children that extra hour of light. In other words, this is a problem caused by daylight savings time. This is not a bonafide benefit from daylight savings time.

Another commonly cited reason for the use of daylight savings time is so there is more usable light in the afternoons and evenings of the summertime, presumably so that farmers can work outside longer, and so that citydwellers (world war II era) can work around the house longer without consuming electricity. Again, these are very hollow reasons today. It is unlikely that there are any real measurable energy savings derived from manipulating the clock.

My grandfather, and all my uncles on my mother's side were farmers. I have some knowledge of the schedule of farmers. There is not one that I know who does not arise at the crack of dawn, if not sooner. There is no other way to function as a farmer. You then proceed to work as long as needed, and as long as you are able, daylight savings time or standard time. The manipulation of clocks in no way affected how much work they got done, or not done.

As for the average city worker working around the house and not using as much electricity because of daylight saving time, I simply don't see this as a real benefit which compels us to manipulate our clocks. For one thing, we are far more addicted to electricity than we were during WWII. There are far more appliances and gadgets that use electricity today, and we've convinced ourselves that many of these are "essential" all the time, regardless of how we manipulate the clocks.

I have talked to many people about daylight savings time. Some like it, some do not. Some are annoyed by it, some find the long afternoons of summer very enjoyable. Everyone has arrived late (or early) on the first Sunday (even Monday in some cases) after the changing of the clocks. Daylight savings time thus gives millions of people a quasi-valid excuse for lateness at least once a year.

I have never talked to, heard or, or met a single person who has declared that the implementation of daylight savings time was somehow critical or important to their lifestyle, livelihood, or business. Not one! Thus, from where does the pressure arise to keep and maintain this "white elephant"?

We all utilize the never-ending cycling of hours as a gauge to our life's activities. We get accustomed to certain patterns and rhythms. I have found that my body tends to arise at the same "time," whether the clock reads standard or daylight savings time. This means I typically arise an hour earlier during daylight savings time. But since none of us live in a vacuum, there is always the necessity to "re-adjust" after each changing of the clocks so that our natural rhythms are then re-aligned with the legal time. It sometimes takes me two or three days for this psychological and physical adjustment. Is this really necessary?

Not only am I a strong proponent of standard time only, I am also a proponent of using local solar time. But local solar time is impractical, and thus its usefulness is only in the realm of backyard sundials, which must then be adjusted to local standard time. Even within our time zone, the sun rises an hour earlier on the eastern side than it does on the western edge. Though Las Vegas and Santa Barbara may be in the same time zone, they do not experience the sun simultaneously. Still, that is tolerable. But to add the utter pointlessness of daylight savings time on top of that is stupidity.

Let's end daylight savings time entirely and adopt a year-round standard time. Those who wish to start school or go to work earlier can do so! Such voluntary time alterations are fine if those individuals and businesses choose to do so. It may even make the freeways less crowded at rush hours. But keep the standard time year-round.

Yes, this is a small thing in the context of a world at war, with hate and suspicion in all political camps, and endless economic hardships all over the world. In that big-picture sense, this is just a little issue. But this is still an issue that should be resolved, and dealt with.

Lets end daylight savings time as a pointless relic of the past that has out-lived its usefulness. How can we all work together to bring our clocks back into sync with standard time?

There are two ways to take action. Since daylight savings time is a state-by-state decision, we can begin with California. Write to Governor Schwarzenegger and ask him to implement year-round standard time. Take a poll of your friends and acquaintances before you write to the Governor. See if you can find anyone who derives tangible benefits from daylight savings time. Secondly, there is always the initiative process where a Proposition can be put on the ballot to be voted on by the people. This is a process that would cost at least a million dollars, and probably more. That may be the path we'll have to travel to eliminate daylight savings time from our state.

Let me hear from you.