Alibi V.16 No.10 • March 8-14, 2007 


In a World Where Time is Mutable ...

That mutability will indefinitely cause problems

Within the institution of time-keeping, its manipulation in favor of daylight savings was originally suggested in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin in a cheeky letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, where he indicated the change would save wax. The first honest-to-goodness proposal that we change our clocks, however, came from Brit William Willett in the early 20th century but wasn't implemented until World War I, when Germany used Daylight Saving Time to conserve coal. The United Kingdom soon followed suit, as did Newfoundland and the United States.

These days, Daylight Saving Time is observed in most of North America and Europe, and in parts of South America, Africa and Australia. In the U.S., Canada and Europe, Daylight Saving Time has in the past couple of decades begun on the first Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday in October. This year, that's changing as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed by the Bushmeister right here in Albuquerque. As of 2007, in an attempt to save resources and advert the impending energy crisis, Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. Advocates speculate the change will save an abundance of oil and other resources, while others say it will actually be detrimental: Whether the new dates will remain intact is contingent on studies that will determine just that. In the meantime, mark your calendars for 2 a.m., March 11 and Nov. 4. And remember this handy mnemonic device: spring forward, fall back.

Because this issue causes more conflict than you can fit in the PNM building, we decided to stage an old-fashioned Alibi debate. Here Devin D. O'Leary, who thinks Daylight Saving Time is dumb, faces off against Marisa Demarco, who is for the mutability of time. Ready, set, go!


Down with Daylight (Saving)!

I doubt many people can even dredge up the reason why we have Daylight Saving Time. For the record, Daylight Saving Time (DST) was first put into practice by the national government of Germany during the First World War. (Thank you very much, Kaiser Wilhelm!) The objective was to conserve fuel needed to produce electricity. Countries around Europe soon followed suit. The U.S. didn't get into the act until 1918, when an act to “preserve daylight and provide standard time zones for the United States” was signed into law. This established our time zones (Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific) and created the whole “spring forward, fall back” debacle. People liked the time zones but hated the whole “early to bed, early to rise” thing--a practice that pretty much ended with the spread of electric lights. The law was repealed in 1919 and not brought up again seriously until F.D.R. revived it during World War II. It was dumped again in 1945 and wasn't permanently enshrined into national law until President Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973.

Unfortunately, the argument about saving energy doesn't seem to hold water. In 1975, United States Department of Transportation studies concluded that DST would probably reduce the country's electricity usage by 1 percent during March and April. However, a 2007 study by the University of California Energy Institute concluded that, in 2000, when parts of Australia extended DST to late winter and early spring, overall electricity consumption did not decrease; in fact, the morning peak load increased.

“Increased daylight” (a misnomer, I'm telling you) is also thought to reduce the number of traffic accidents in early evening. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost of more accidents in the morning. (School bus accidents went up noticeably in 1973.) A study of traffic accidents throughout Canada in 1991 and 1992 by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia before, during and immediately after the so-called “spring forward” found an 8 percent jump in traffic accidents on the Monday after clocks are moved ahead.

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the amount of daylight in a 24-hour period isn't going to change no matter how often we adjust our wristwatches. You simply can't increase the amount of daylight; you can only rob Peter to pay Paul. An hour more in the morning means an hour less in the evening. People whose professions are actually affected by the rising and setting of the sun--farmers, for example, if you can find any noncorporate examples left in America--typically wake up with the sun regardless of what time it says on their alarm clock. The rest of us couldn't care less--we work from 9 to 5 no matter where the sun is in the sky.

All DST does is make us wake up an hour early in the summertime and come home from work or school in the dark in wintertime. Africa, Iceland, the Middle East, the majority of Asia, most of South America, a few stubborn Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Arizona do not observe DST. Why should the rest of us?

Vote Yes for the Mutability of Time!

I subscribe to the realist view presented by Sir Isaac Newton: Time is a way for us to talk and think about events. It's something man invented. Hence, words like "lunchtime" and phrases like "time to make the doughnuts." A gal who knows lunchtime can be anytime already has a grip on this.

Man made time, I say. Therefore, Man (and Devin) should be able to manipulate time without being wusses about it. You hear that, Man and Devin?

I'm not a morning person. I don't really lose my tendency to stare blankly at things until about 11 a.m. as it is. Once the new Daylight Saving Time (DST) hits on March 11, I'll be having these blips until about noon. But really, I unselfishly realize, this is a small price to pay.

Using an estimated 1 percent less electricity each day makes a difference. Even if that's a hopeful estimate, and it is, the United States will save an estimated 100,000 barrels of oil per day and about $300 million in energy costs, according to proponents of the extended DST. Though this might have only a small to mid-level impact on the environment, that sounds like a whole lot of freaking oil to me.

Also, vampires will be less of a problem. Think about it: If you have to go to the bank or walk home from work and the sun's just starting to go down, it's less likely that a bloodsucker will attach himself (or herself, if you're going vampire P.C.) to your neck.

I know it's not going to help the farmers, who mostly use March for selling seeds and getting equipment ready, according to small farming community newspapers. Farmers are overpaid jerks, anyway. But think of the good folks at Starbucks, barely hanging on to fiscal solvency. Surely the earlier hours and grumpy office workers will translate as a boon to them.

In fact, were it not such a pain in the ass, I'd suggest we all move our clocks forward just a hair every night during DST. That way my 9 a.m. will always have the same shade of daylight in it and my nights will begin at roughly the same hour. I'm sure some scientist can invent a clock that loses a moment for us each day without lazy folks having to do it manually. As it stands, the simple method of jumping a whole 60 minutes in one go will probably suffice.