On Sunday morning we are required to spring our clocks forward an hour, if we wish to remain in synch with the rest of the nation, get to church and work on time and tune in at the proper time to our favorite radio and TV programs.
Mankind once worked from can till cain’t, as my ol’ grandpappy used to say — from the time you can see till the time you can’t — and farmers and ranchers like grandpappy still do. But to make the trains run on time, we strapped ourselves to the clock, even though the clock is uniform and doesn’t change when the amount of daylight does.
Ol’ Ben Franklin, while serving as ambassador in France, accidentally figured out that this out-of-synch arrangement was somewhat uneconomical when he mistakenly arose one day at 6 a.m. instead of noon and discovered the sun was shining through his window. “I love economy exceedingly,” he jested, and proceeded to explain in a letter to a local newspaper how many candles and how much lamp oil could be saved by adjusting the city’s lifestyle to the proclivities of the sun.
“This event has given rise in my mind to several serious and important reflections. I considered that, if I had not been awakened so early in the morning, I should have slept six hours longer by the light of the sun, and in exchange have lived six hours the following night by candle-light; and, the latter being a much more expensive light than the former, my love of economy induced me to muster up what little arithmetic I was master of, and to make some calculations, which I shall give you, after observing that utility is, in my opinion the test of value in matters of invention, and that a discovery which can be applied to no use, or is not good for something, is good for nothing.”
Then he did the math, and exclaimed, “An immense sum! that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.”
Thus, in 1918 in a effort to be more economical during the war, Congress borrowed from Europe the concept of daylight saving time — springing clocks forward during the summer and back in the winter. From shortly after Pearl Harbor until the end of the Second World War, the nation was on year-round daylight saving time, or war time, as it was called.
Moving the clock forward in summer might well save a few kilowatt-hours in lighting, but in states like Nevada that savings is more than made up for with increased air conditioning costs and the fuel used to drive about more after getting off work.
One recent study found that springing forward causes enough sleep deprivation to cost the U.S. economy $435 million a year. The New England Journal of Medicine found an association between that one hour loss of sleep from daylight saving time and an increase in car accidents, as well as a 5 percent increase in heart attacks in the first three weekdays after the transition to daylight saving time, while an Australian study found an increase in the suicide rate.
The changing of clocks twice a year is really a bit of a nuisance and, dare I say, a waste of time — or at least that is what I said in a newspaper column a nearly a year ago.
In a futile gesture to end the charade, the state Legislature in 2015 passed Assembly Joint Resolution No. 4 that proposes to make Pacific Daylight Saving Time year-round.
“WHEREAS, Congress also found and declared that ‘the use of year-round daylight saving time could have other beneficial effects on the public interest, including the reduction of crime, improved traffic safety, more daylight outdoor playtime for children and youth of our Nation, [and] greater utilization of parks and recreation areas …’” AJR4 reads in part, also noting possible “expanded economic opportunity through extension of daylight hours to peak shopping hour. ”
It passed both the Assembly and Senate and was enrolled by the Secretary of State.
Changing to year-round daylight saving time might not save electricity, but it could increase productivity and prevent car wrecks.
Alas, as with everything else, the power to fix this lies in Washington, though I can’t seem to find this enumerated power in my copy of the Constitution. Perhaps it is outdated.
In another glaring example of the efficiency and sincerity of our elected officials, this past fall, as we were being required to fall back and reset our clocks again, the morning newspaper was reporting that no one in Washington had ever heard of AJR4.
AJR4 concludes by beseeching Congress to amend The Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973 and allow each state to opt out, the same as Arizona and Hawaii have opted out, but rather than sticking with standard time, AJR4 would adopt Pacific Daylight Savings Time all year. Why should it get dark at 4:30 p.m. in the winter anyway?
Don’t hold your breath waiting for Washington to figure out what time it is. They don’t know what century it is.
A version of this posting has appeared here for the past two years.