Updated: May 19, 2022
(And yes, it is SAVING, not SAVINGS.)
“Spring forward, fall back” time has arrived, this time maybe for good— the U.S. Senate has just voted UNANIMOUSLY to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. I don’t like that idea…nor would I support banning it completely. I think we need to keep it as is. Here’s why–
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A few springtimes ago, an old friend got online and complained about losing an hour of sleep for no useful reason when we set our clocks forward, and I felt that he might benefit from a little Grumpy Old Mansplaining. As an overnight trucker, I can attest through firsthand observation that in June— our sunniest month here in the northern hemisphere— the northeastern sky begins to pinken at 3:00AM as I make my way into Boston. By 4:00AM it is darn near light enough for golf, definitely so by 4:20AM. The June sun rises in Boston right after 5:00AM and sets about 8:20PM. I asked my friend whether he would rather that hour of golf-enabling light between 7:30 and 8:30PM, or— as would be the case WITHOUT Daylight Saving Time— between 3:00 and 4:00AM. He immediately saw my reasoning. But what about the flip side?
On January 1st of each year, the sun rises in Boston at 7:13AM on Standard Time. If and/or when we make Daylight Saving Time permanent, that would put the January sunrise out to 8:13AM. And because the sun takes such a low track through our winter sky, we have less pre-dawn illumination than in summer. The upshot of this is that our children will head off to school in blackness, as will most folks head off to work. While it is true that the late sunrise would be in exchange for an extra hour of sunlight in the evening, that would hardly be as useful in the dead of winter as it would be in warmer months.
But here’s where it gets truly problematic— Boston is on the eastern edge of a time zone that extends a thousand miles to the west, and the sun cannot be everywhere at once in a given time zone. Indianapolis, for instance, is 900 miles west of Boston and therefore a full hour behind in sunrise and sunset times… and so if this new legislation becomes law, most of Indiana would not see a January sunrise until after 9:00AM. One could rightly say that Daylight Saving Time in the warm half of the year prevents Boston from having a largely useless 4:00AM June sunrise, while NOT having Daylight Saving Time in the winter prevents Indianapolis from having an utterly undesirable 9:00AM January sunrise. I call that a win-win.
So there we have it. This isn’t complicated. We benefit from having Daylight Saving Time in the summer, and we benefit from NOT having it in the winter. All it costs, really, is the inconvenience of losing one hour every spring, as we don’t really suffer from gaining that hour back in the fall. As inconveniences go, I find it rather minor… hell, most of our clocks even manage to change themselves nowadays
We humans have it pretty good here on Earth— we are just the right distance from the sun, and we also have the perfect atmospheric composition to support life. If our axis of rotation weren’t slightly cockeyed relative to our orbital path, we wouldn’t be discussing Daylight Saving Time at all because we wouldn’t have any seasons, and the hours of daylight we experience in a given spot would be exactly the same every day of the year. I think that would be pretty boring.
But alas, instead of appreciating the variety of the four seasons, people dig into the semi-annual Daylight Saving debate as if it gives them something they need as much as sunshine itself— something to gripe about.