time

The Stupidity of “Falling Back” an Hour

You set your clocks back, didn’t you? Custom forces you to do so, and sometimes custom is blindly repeating our mistakes. The twice-a-year clock shifting between “standard” and “summer/daylight” times is a prime example.

Clock Time

Our units of time measurement are entirely arbitrary. There is no good reason for the calendar to begin on the First of January. That the solar year is 365 (and a bit) solar days is decided for us, but how we divide it up and label it is purely arbitrary. There’s no necessary reason to have 12 months and 52 weeks.

Likewise, the length of the solar day is decided for us, but how we divide it up and label it is purely arbitrary. We’ve decided, for no necessary reason, to divide the solar day into 24 hours. Could have been 10 hours, could have been 32 hours. Nothing better or worse in any of them.

“Midnight” and “noon” are roughly tied to the movement of the sun, but solar noon is not clock noon. The solar noon is determined by the location on the Earth and the time of solar year. Detroit and Boston have clock noon at the same clock time, but Detroit’s solar noon is 48 minutes after Boston’s solar noon. You can verify that and for your home town (U.S. only) here. Sunrise and sunset times can vary between places even more widely within those arbitrary time zones that custom and legalities force us to live under.

The point is that there is absolutely nothing that decides for us that we label a certain time of the solar day “noon, “ 7 am,” “8 pm,” and so on. It’s all arbitrary. We made it up, so that means we can change it.

Wrenching Changes to Clock Time

In one harmful way, we have changed clock time. The idea of a “daylight savings time” began to be implemented in the early 1900s. It was well intentioned—move the arbitrary clock time ahead one hour so that we have one more hour of daylight in the evening when people are more active. This bold move, though not as drastic as the switch to the Gregorian calendar, was still seen as a modification of “normal,” and so was limited to summer months and so began the twice-annual wrenching switch between “standard” and the non-standard “daylight” clock times.

Laws were passed to establish the custom that clock time be changed one hour from “standard” to “daylight” in the spring, and back to “standard” in the autumn. The problem is that the perceived need to adhere to arbitrary clock time is an extension of industrialized society. Factories and other industrial activities ran by the clock, forcing workers to appear at a certain time of the clock, and not allowing them to leave until a certain time of the clock.

Agrarian society was not so unforgiving. Farmers, like their animals, got up with the sunrise, and more or less stopped work when it got dark. Farmers, like their animals, followed the natural cycles of day and night and the seasonal changes to the lengths of day and night. We humans are animals who, like all other animals, have biological rhythms that are tied to the seasonal changes of light and dark. When we follow those natural rhythms, we are more in harmony with nature and our bodies.

Today, business workers are still tied to the clock. If their business forces them to report to work at a certain hour, they have to do so, without regard to whether it is light out or not. Twice a year, their reporting time is shifted by an hour, as the arbitrary clock time is wrenched ahead or back. This arbitrary shift is wrenching to mind and body.

Why We Need to End the Wrenching

Being forced to “spring ahead” and “fall back” is no mere inconvenience. We are animals, and as animals we have natural biological rhythms. We have the free will to go against those natural rhythms, but there is a cost to pay. The data is showing that the wrench of the clock changes are damaging our health. It is literally killing us. There is a lot of hard data on the harm caused by the clock wrenching.

One of the main arguments for daylight savings time is that it saves energy. The data is less than conclusive, but tends to favor the idea that it does save energy. If that is the case for saving energy in the summer, wouldn’t it also be the case that an extra hour of light in the late afternoon would save energy? In the energy-hogging societies of Europe and North America, having to turn on the lights at 5 pm rather than 4 pm would save energy that is not offset by having sunrise at 7 am rather than 8am.

Regardless, the amount of your electricity bill is irrelevant if you are dead. And yes, the wrenching clock changes kill. The medical world knows this. The business world knows this (and the clock changes also harms business productivity). Politicians aren’t listening. Despite pleas to end the wholly unnecessary arbitrary clock changes between “standard” and “daylight” time. Europe and North America are still stuck in the harmful custom that most of the rest of the world has abandoned.

Pick One or the Other and STAY There

This isn’t a matter so much of which is better, standard time or daylight time. I am an evening person, so I prefer more daylight later in the clock day, but a morning person would prefer that daylight be earlier in the clock day. There’s no necessary reason to choose one or the other. Pick one, either one, and stop the madness.

 

 

Daylight Savings Time

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