Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saving Daylight

I hope that all Americans have made the necessary adjustments of “falling back” to Standard Time. I really dislike the need to change my clocks and put my body through the “jet lag” of changing to or from Daylight Saving Time (DST) twice each year. I decided to do a little research about the time changes.

Time itself – at least in the United States – was anything but standard before the cross-continental railroads were built. Different towns and cities across the nation set their own times. This made it difficult for the railroad to make schedules; therefore, the nation was put into time zones.

Apparently, the idea of moving the clocks forward was present in ancient times, but I didn’t find any definite information on it. Benjamin Franklin is said to have joked about the possibility of saving on the cost of candles if clocks were adjusted to maximum daily sunshine, but I didn’t find any foundation for it.

I found several references to our nation practicing DST during World War I for about seven months. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed our nation to be on “War Time” during World War II in order to save coal. The DST lasted from 1942 to 1945.

In 1966 Congress adopted the Uniform Time Act that established uniform time across our nation. Most of our nation decided to use DST then even though there is no federal law demanding it. Arizona went on DST in April 1967 along with the rest of the Mountain Time zone and tried it for one year. At the end of that year, the Arizona state legislature asked for and received an exemption to the law. Forty years later most of the people in Arizona still do not change their clocks, but some Indian Reservations do. Indiana did not have DST until 2005 when the western part of the state decided to go on it. Hawaii, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands do not have DST. Mexico now practices DST along with most of Canada.

There are 24 time zones in the world that run north to south from pole to pole. These time zones are 15 degrees apart or the distance the earth travels in an hour around the sun. Time zones apparently begin at the Prime Meridian at 0 degrees longitude. This zone happens to travel through Greenwich, England (a London borough) and is the reason for the name Greenwich Meantime (GMT). GMT gave way to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The official UTC is based on atomic clocks.

According to Wikipedia: “Most areas of North America and Europe observe daylight saving time (DST), while most areas of Africa, Asia (except Russia), and Antarctica do not. South America is mixed, with most countries in the warmer north of the continent near the equator not observing DST, while Chili, Paraguay, and Uruguay and southern parts of Brazil do. Oceania is also mixed with New Zealand and parts of southern Australia observing DST, while most other areas do not.”

Alaska observes DST in order to keep consistent time with the rest of our nation This seems to be the only reason why Alaska has DST. Anchorage in mid-summer has more than 20 hours of daylight. Moving the clock to save an hour of daylight makes little difference when the sun rises at 2:00 a.m. and sets at 11:00 p.m. By the end of March when DST kicks in, Anchorage is enjoying 12 hours of daylight with the amount quickly increasing each day. Anchorage in mid-winter is dark for almost 20 hours each day no matter what time the clock says. The children go to and from school and office workers go to and from work in the dark. Statewide surveys in 2004, 2005, and 2010 showed that a majority (55 percent) of Alaskans do not want to change their clocks twice each year.

Most of Alaska is in the Alaska Time Zone, which was previously known as the Yukon Standard Time zone (YST). In 1975 the Yukon Territory switched to the Pacific Standard Time zone, leaving their previous time zone unused. The state of Alaska decided in 1983 to move most of the state to one time zone known as Alaska Time zone. Parts of Alaska were previously in several different time zones, causing difficulties in conducting business – especially when calling government offices on the East Coast. Prior to 1983, Yakutat was on Yukon Standard Time, the Alaska Panhandle communities were on Pacific Standard Time, the Interior was on Alaska-Hawaii Standard Time, and Nome and the Aleutians were on Bering Standard Time. After the 1983 time change, all of Alaska is on Alaska Standard Time except the western Aleutian Islands, which observe Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time and are one hour behind the remainder of the state. Texas is the only other state that I am aware of that has two time zones. The time zone change is located somewhere between El Paso and San Antonio as I remember.

We are told that we go through the exercise of observing DST in order to save energy, but there are questions about whether we actually save energy by using electricity to light the darkness of early morning. There are apparently some good data confirming that DST decreases crime, automobile accidents, and traffic fatalities.

The United Kingdom ended DST a week before the United States ended it. Mayer Hillman, a senior fellow emeritus at the University of Westminster’s Policy Studies Institute in London, is of the opinion that the extra hour of daylight each day would encourage more people “to go outside and engage in some physical activity – something that would improve public health” (British Medical Journal quoted by Karen Kaplan of the Los Angeles Times). Hillman has been trying for some time to convince everyone that we should “keep the clocks as they are in the fall and move them forward an additional hour in the spring, the result will be ‘an additional hour of evening daylight in every day of the year.’ The cost for this extra evening daylight is extra morning darkness, but that’s only a problem during the winter, he says.

“But that’s only fair, according to his calculations: `On average over the year only one or two of our waking hours in the morning are spent in darkness whereas nearly half of the 10-11 waking hours after midday are in darkness.’”

An hour more daylight in the evening would mean more time for playing, shopping, gardening, and working. An hour more darkness in the mornings would mean operating longer in the dark for farmers and others who rise before dawn. After all my research, I am still confused about whether or not we should practice daylight saving time.

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