Saving Daylight?

On November 6th, we will have to turn back our clocks one hour (most of them automatically reset). When we wake up thinking it is 7 am, the clock says it is only 6 am and we can doze a bit more. Then in March, we will be reminded to reset the clocks forward to standard time, so the 7 am when  we were used to starting our day has been relabeled 8 am and you are LATE!!!

In fact, we can’t save daylight.  What we can do is choose a time pattern to ensure that as many people as possible have enough of the available daylight for their activities that need it. It is in the hands of Congress. Despite requests from 28 states, Congress has yet to act on keeping the same time zone times year-round rather than messing people’s sleeping and living patterns with a one-hour leap forward in March and a turnback of the clock in November. A few states have requested and received permission to stay on one time year-round. (I think their permission is to stay on daylight saving time rather than standard time).

What is the point of all this mass confusion and interrupted waking and sleeping patterns?  Nature encourages us to sleep more in the winter and be more active in the summer with the seasonal changes in both light and warmth, or lack thereof. The path of nature is gradual as we descend into winter and emerge from it about four months late. But adjusting the clocks every Sunday night by 5 or six minutes would be a big hassle, so we seem to have settled into this spring forward, fall back pattern as a grudging way of listening to Mother Nature. There are some reasons offered for the shift, but they aren’t very compelling.  It would probably be good to minimize the number of days children have to wait int he dark for school buses.  (That could be addressed by a healthier, later starting school day, but that’s a different blog and an even more intractable political choice.) Golfers like to extend the light into the evening so that they can play longer. People who work outdoors prefer to maximize the number of normal workday hours that fall into their standard schedules.  People like me who don’t like to drive at night might prefer year-round daylight-saving time to have light later in the day. And therein lies the problem.

Making a change requires that we talk to each other, weigh the advantages of one pattern or the other, and enact it into law.  It isn’t a partisan issue.  It’s not like Republicans want daylight saving and Democrats want standard time, or vice versa.  The consensus for change is strong but split between the “all standard time” supporters and the “all daylight-saving time” coalition. And thus, we are stalemated on a change that would ultimately benefit all of us by avoiding the twice a year confusion and disruption.

The time controversy is just a metaphor for our inability to make democracy work on the bigger issues. If a majority of states and people want a single time pattern year-round, why can’t we make it happen? And if we can’t solve the little problems, how are we ever going to make any headway on the big ones?

So, with one of my favorite holidays—Election Day– just ten days away, think about that challenge when you vote.  Ask yourself, or your candidates, how open-minded, flexible, and responsive is this person, or has he/she been if incumbent, or likely to be in the future? Because democracy only works if we are able to learn, discuss, compromise, make decisions, and move on.

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