The Saving Is An Illusion

First frame of Non-Sequetur comic

Please excuse me while I rant.

Part of my crankiness this morning is due to the abrupt shift forward of the clock, a misguided and arrogant attempt by our lawmakers to “save” time. Time, of course, is a very human invention. Daylight Saving Time is a very stupid, human invention.

It’s time to dump it.

I’ve seen a number of posts on Twitter and elsewhere claiming that this month is the 100th anniversary of the national application of this concept. It’s true that the Standard Time Act, the bill which made Daylight Saving Time the law everywhere in the country, was passed in March 1918.1

It was also repealed the following year because DST was universally hated.

The idea was brought back nationally during World War II, but was applied inconsistently during other periods. Which is why the transportation industry lobbied for a permanent national law.

However, instead of doing the sensible thing, telling everyone to cut out the practice altogether and let nature do it’s thing with regard to sunrise and sunset, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966.

Anyway, I’ve ranted about this several times in the past and you can read those entries for more reasons why this concept needs to die. A few years ago the Washington Post also published 5 Myths About Daylight Saving Time, which includes this little additional bit of nomenclature stupidity to add to the mix.

Guess what time we’re on for eight months of the year? Daylight saving time. In what universe is something that happens for only one-third of the time the “standard”? Even before the 2007 change, DST ran for seven months out of 12.

In fact, some opponents of DST aren’t against daylight saving time per se: They think it should be adopted as the year-round standard time. Because it basically already is.

So, there’s the solution. Next November, just leave the damn clocks where they are and forget the whole illusion of “saving” time. I don’t care whether you choose to call it “permanent daylight saving time”, which sounds stupid, or “standard” time, which it would be.

After one cycle, most people will just call it normal. Just like nature intended.

Thank you for indulging my sleep deprived rant.

Oh, and one more thing: the term is Daylight Saving, not savingS. At least get that part right.

The cartoon is the first panel from the Sunday edition of Wiley Miller’s wonderful Non Sequitur. The rest of his story makes about as much sense as any justification for DST I’ve heard. The Sunday Fox Trot take on DST is also amusing. I think using a part of the comic in this context would be considered Fair Use.

1. Wikipedia, as you might expect, has a very complete telling of Daylight Saving Time’s history in the US and the general controversy surrounding the concept.

Time to Stop Playing With Time

Daylight Saving Time is a pretty stupid idea, although I wouldn’t go to the way over-the-top level of this writer who calls the system “America’s greatest shame” and “the greatest continuing fraud ever perpetuated on American people”.*

Still, once you get past the hyperbole of the headline and opening paragraph, he does provide plenty of evidence that there is “no benefit or rhyme or reason” for continuing this plan for “maximizing daylight”.

Like multiple studies showing that energy conservation benefits, one of the primary reasons for the US keeping (and in 2007 expanding) the practice of changing the clocks twice a year, are statistically irrelevant at best.

On the other side, he also cites research suggesting that shifting the time is bad for worker productivity and may even negatively affect health by disrupting sleep patterns. Not sure about any of that but it sure is annoying having to readjust for days following the change.

And then there are the farmers, for whom we were told in elementary school, this system was beneficial.

“That’s the complete inverse of what’s true,” Tufts University professor Michael Downing, told National Geographic. “The farmers were the only organized lobby against daylight saving in the history of the country.” The reason, Downing explains, is that DST left them with less sunlight to get crops to market.

Certainly their farm animals aren’t stupid enough to buy into DST and I doubt cows will be shifting their regular routines by an hour today.

Bottom line? There is no good reason to hang on to this crappy idea.

And on the subject of tinkering with time, another writer offers a proposal to cut the continental US back to two time zones instead of four, in addition to her five more reasons to kill Daylight Saving Time.

An interesting idea. Unlike DST, I understand the need for time zones, although having lived in the mountain zone, I’m not sure anyone would miss it.

*I could be persuaded to apply those labels to the Tea Party movement but that’s another post.

Our Biannual Stupidity

Daylight Saving Time is one of the dumbest ideas ever created by man.

But that’s just my opinion. Here’s what a scientist with expertise in the matter has to say.

Whether or not DST saves energy [it doesn’t] is the least of the reasons why it’s a bad idea. Much more important are the health effects of sudden, hour-long shifts on our bodies and minds. Chronobiologists* who study circadian rhythms know that for several days after the spring-forward clock resetting — and especially that first Monday — traffic accidents increase, workplace injuries go up and, perhaps most telling, incidences of heart attacks rise sharply. Cases of depression also go up. As the faint light of dawn starts preparing our bodies for waking up (mainly through the rise of cortisol secretion), our various organs, including the heart, also start preparing for increased function. If the alarm clock suddenly rings an hour earlier than usual, a weak heart can suffer an infarct.

The reason for negative health effects of DST is that, in essence, the entire world is jet-lagged for a few days. Unlike some animals, like honeybees and reindeer, humans have a very robust circadian clock system that resists abrupt shifts.

DST is a relatively recent invention in human history. In the US, Arizona, Hawaii, and some counties in Indiana refuse to go along with the system, and it’s not used at all in most non-western nations, including China, India and Russia.

It’s not likely our Congress critters would consider dropping the tradition since they can’t get organized enough to work on the real business of the country. Besides, too many of them don’t believe in anything to do with scientific evidence.

However, the keeping of time is basically a concept that’s been determined by society as a whole over the centuries. I wonder what would happen if enough of us just decided to leave the clocks alone next fall.

Think about it, people.

Chronobiology is a field of biology that examines periodic (cyclic) phenomena in living organisms and their adaptation to solar- and lunar-related rhythms.