Saturday, November 5, 2022

It's About Time

Thanks be to God! Or, rather, thanks to the politicians and the bureaucrats, who presume to regulate our clocks, that Daylight Saving Time will finally come to an end tonight, which means that there will be light again instead of extreme darkness when I have to get up in the morning tomorrow.

Despite the way it is sometimes presented, Daylight Saving Time does not give us an extra hour of daylight, as is so often alleged. It just reallocates the daylight, giving us darker mornings and brighter evenings - fine for wealthy golfers but terrible for farmers and schoolchildren who have to wait for the bus in dangerously dark streets. Modern society has in so many ways de-linked us from nature and our natural biological rhythms. Daylight Saving Time just makes it worse, a further de-linking of our official, social, civilizational time from natural time.

Obviously we cannot live our modern lives without standardizing time. What is called "Standard Time," to which we will return tonight, remains the closest availably approximation to "natural" time and to the biological rhythms that are part of who we are as human beings.

Modern Daylight Saving Time was first widely adopted as a wartime measure during World War I. It reappeared again in World War II, when it was known as "war time." After that, it was adopted in some states and not in others. The system of summer Daylight Saving Time was codified in the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Since then, the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time have been expanded slightly at each end, thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Of course, there has never been any clear or convincing evidence that Daylight Saving Time actually does anything to save energy. It is, however, a good symbolic substitute for enacting any concrete policy that might actually do so.

Some states (Hawaii and Arizona) have opted out of Daylight Saving Time and stay on Standard Time all year. It is alleged that some individuals experience significant distress due to the semi-annual clock change and require time to readjust biologically and psychologically to the change in time. The frequent occurrence of Election Day just two days after the autumn clock change has even been blamed for lower voter turnout!

Daylight Saving Time was invented in an era when humans hoped to leave the constraints of the natural world behind as much as possible. Since then, nature has begun to exact her revenge. The continuity of human civilization now requires renegotiating that relationship in a way which respects natural limits on human hubris. Recalibrating our clocks to be closer to natural time is one very modest and imperfect but still symbolic step in that direction.

I have never seen any significant advantage to adding the unnecessary additional artificiality of Daylight Saving Time. I pray I may live to see the day when we are never again required to spring forward, thus obviating tonight's corrective of falling back.

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