A defense for changing our clocks twice a year
Sunrise in the winter, or what 8:30 a.m. will look like in December where I live if we adopt Daylight Saving Time year-round.
There seems to be gathering steam to get rid of the twice-annual changing of our clocks. People are apparently so fed up with “springing forward” and “falling back,” that the majority of Americans now support getting rid of the time change altogether, in favor of either year-round Daylight Saving Time (the seemingly more popular choice) or Standard Time. The most common refrain reported in the news stories I see about this is, “I don’t care which time they pick, I just want to stop changing my clocks.”
I’ve written about this before, more than a decade ago (at a time when I apparently was positioning this blog’s tone to be some kind of alter-ego irreverent jerk version of myself). I’m not tired of changing my clocks. I am tired of the twice-annual griping about this minor inconvenience. Every time Daylight Saving Time begins or ends, there’s an endless torrent of stories written about how it’s bad, and awful, and inconvenient, and unsafe, and blah blah blah.
No one ever seems to defend it. The conventional wisdom now seems to be: It’s stupid and wrong, it was “all about the farmers” in the early 1900s or whatever, and that we shouldn’t do it anymore, mainly because we’re just doing it because we’ve always done it, and that’s somehow Bad.
Allow me to defend it on some simple pragmatic terms. For one, just because we’ve been doing something forever doesn’t mean it’s automatically wrong. There seems to be this school of thought that re-evaluating old ideas simply means drawing the opposite conclusion of what currently exists — rather than entertaining the possibility there might still possibly be a good reason for doing the old thing moving forward.
Now, I realize there is data out there that is not on my side. There are more accidents and heart attacks and whatever the week following the time changes, various news stories have informed me. I’m not convinced these data points can draw a direct correlation without analysis of other potential variables, but I have a bias about this, so fine. But even if we assume the correlation, have we considered the consequences of what happens if we don’t keep doing this one-hour time shift? I’m not convinced we have, or that it’s as much of a no-brainer as many make it out to be.
I’ll frame it in terms of a quiz with two questions:
Question 1) In late-December, which would you prefer:
(A) Have the sun rise at 7:12 a.m. and set at 4:32 p.m. OR
(B) Have the sun rise at 8:12 a.m. and set at 5:32 p.m.
Question 2) In late-June, which would you prefer:
(C) Have the sun rise at 5:25 a.m. and set at 8:30 p.m. OR
(D) Have the sun rise at 4:25 a.m. and set at 7:30 p.m.
Now, for each question above you must pick one option, and there are no other options, because that’s how time zones and Daylight Saving Time (or the lack thereof) work.
If you picked A and C, you just voted for changing the clocks twice a year like we do currently.
If you picked A and D, you voted for year-round Standard Time. If you picked B and C, you voted for year-round Daylight Saving Time.
If you picked B and D, you picked something that cannot exist because it would be Daylight Saving Time in the winter and Standard Time in the summer, which makes no sense at all. You must live in bizarro world. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Granted, these times are specific to my location’s latitude and longitude. Your location may change these times significantly, up to nearly an hour. And if you live outside the United States (or in Arizona or Hawaii) and don’t observe Daylight Saving Time, this entire article is probably a waste of your time.
The A/C option seems reasonable to me, given the way we live, and the benefits we get for shifting the clocks an hour to align sunlight with life activities — which, not a bad thing for a minor inconvenience!
I, for one, don’t want the sun coming up at almost 8:30 a.m. in the winter. My kids will have gotten on the school bus 90 minutes before sunrise if that’s the case. It’s madness. To all those who quote safety data for how clock-shifting is dangerous, get back to me with the accident rate increase data after we start sending kids to school in the morning for three months while it’s pitch black outside.
Likewise, in the summer, I’d imagine that most people would rather have an extra hour in the evening to enjoy outdoor activities rather than having the sun come up at 4:30 a.m. I mean, sunrise at 4:30? Really? Why?
And don’t even get me started about states trying to do this piecemeal without a federal law change. That’s just insanity. People can’t even do the simple task of calculating between four time zones in the continental U.S. today. You think they’re going to be able to keep track of which states are on Standard Time versus Daylight Time in addition to the time zones after 15 or 20 states decide to legislate this on their own? Good luck with that.
I’m sure my argument is not fully airtight and there’s data out there proving I’m wrong. Fine, I can accept that. But I also think the full effect of doing this has not been scrutinized by most people who are hopping on this particular bandwagon, and they are going to hate it when they see what it’s actually like. There will be a backlash to the action mandated by the backlash.
Until then, put me in the apparently unpopular column of someone who doesn’t mind one bit the minor inconvenience of adjusting to an hour shift in my schedule when it means months of daylight aligned to what makes sense for my day.