Daylight Savings Time As A Characteristic Problem Of Our Age

There have been moves afoot recently on the state and national level to make Daylight Savings Time last all year round. This possibility, which would make areas effectively be a time zone ahead of where they would otherwise be, has resulted from the dissatisfaction that is felt when people have to change from standard time (as it is called) to daylight savings time, which just happened for us this past weekend as I write this. This tends to make people tired, as I am feeling right now, so much so that I napped for an hour or so before writing this particular entry, missing the time I would have more profitably spent chatting with friends and instead having odd dreams. For those whose tiredness during the period after switching from one standard of time to another leads them to be tired on the road, it has also been noted in various studies that the period after switching to Daylight Savings Time is more dangerous for people on the road.

The solution that governments tend to think of to these problems is to make Daylight Savings Time last all year, so that people do not have to switch from one time to another. Other governments have, throughout the last few decades, thought to make the handling of time more convenient for them by having massive nations like China or the Soviet Union be one on time zone that suits those in the capital, irrespective of what best reflects conditions in other parts of massive and sprawling nations that are separated by thousands of miles and considerable differences in local conditions.

Even the resistance to daylight savings time itself is somewhat incomplete when it comes to addressing the core problem behind the foolishness of how we see time in our contemporary age. Why is it that we have time zones in the first place? Time is itself a local problem. The patterns of our life are based on very local conditions–when is sunrise and sunset, what are the atmospheric conditions when we are waking up and going about our business? What are the conditions on the road when we need to be out and about? When is the temperature warm enough for us to plant crops or cold enough where we must harvest if we do not wish to lose the crop altogether? These are things that we must observe from where we are. They are not suitable to be legislated on from state or national capitals.

When we inquire why it is that time zones exist at all, we find out out that in the age of the telegraph and the railroad that it became desire to the massive companies that were seeking to control communications and transportation to have standardized time across areas rather than deal with the complexity of local time. But why does this need to be so? Why should it be a problem for a traveler if a given train trip causes local time to change by a few minutes due to the local position of the sun? Contemporary travelers can juggle hours of change as they deal with the jet lag between where they take off and where they arrive, inquiring about the local time as an ordinary aspect of their travels. If ordinary tourists can do this, surely those who are traveling by railroad can ask the same questions about what local time is at a given place of work or at a given destination as to one’s travels. With our advanced technology and computing power, it would be no great difficulty for there to be discussions as to what the local time is between different devices, calculated based on the position of the sun given the location of a device. Such calculation could be automatic, and would allow for the potentially infinite conditions that exist around the earth.

The longitudinal position of when the sun is at its local maximum in the sky that determines noon is but one of the conditions that must be addressed as far as local conditions are concerned. Additionally, one must deal with sunrise and sunset. The variation between sunrise and sunset times varies generally based on how close to the equator one is. In tropical zones, this variation is small throughout the year. In temperate latitudes north and south of the equator, the variation is more serious and increasingly more so as you move further from the equator, and in polar regions at the extremities of the earth close to the north and south pole, the changes in sunrise and sunset conditions can be particularly extreme. How do we choose to solve those problems? We can choose to solve the problems by adapting ourselves to the conditions that we find around us, or we can seek to make the time conform to our own ideas by shifting time in daylight savings time or something of that nature.

Yet what is optimal for one area is not likely to be for another that has different conditions. If we take countries as large as the United States, for example, tropical areas like Hawaii, Guam, the southern areas of Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa are likely to benefit from not having daylight savings time at all, because to have it at all makes mornings very early and thus very dangerous. Indeed, it should be noted that some of these areas already do not have Daylight Savings Time at all even if most areas of the United States do. On the other hand, a mere hour of daylight savings time is not going to resolve the large swings of time between sunrise and sunset that exist near the Canadian border of the lower 48 states, to say nothing of the considerably more extreme variations that one finds in Alaska. Given this reality, it would appear that the optimal way of addressing these variations is in local solutions that address this local variation rather than solutions that expand across entire states (all of Alaska, for example, is in a single time zone, which staggers belief given the variation that exists in just this one area), much less solutions that are imposed from the top down in national governments.

This is not an isolated problem. Indeed, the problem of standardizing time and then trying to address the inevitable problems that come from bureaucratic solutions to such problems on the national level by more misguided and straightjacket solutions is a characteristic problem of our time. Indeed, we might say that there are at least two layers to the problem. For one, there are the problems that are caused by the distinctions that exist between the local conditions of one area and another area that one wants to ameliorate. The second layer of problems is the fact that one pursues uniformity and standardization as the solution rather than accepting that local conditions vary and so that the results of human activity in those varied conditions is going to vary as well. The third layer of the problem is that one seeks even more unform and straightjacket solutions at a higher level to the problems that result from the earlier efforts at misguided standardization that created other predictable and lamentable problems resulting from the lack of fit between standardized solutions and local conditions. We are going about things the wrong way. If we want more equitable conditions to exist, we must change our approach to no longer seek to force everyone into the same categories and the same behaviors given the variety of conditions that exist, but we must instead seek to understand the conditions that we find around us and accommodate ourselves better to them. That this is contrary to the spirit of our times, which seeks to obliterate local conditions on still higher levels than the nation, makes it all the more urgent and important to do so.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Daylight Savings Time As A Characteristic Problem Of Our Age

  1. Tommie Ray says:

        People have to pay those exhorbitant bills for electricity. It is
    day-light stealing time.

    Tommie Ray

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