Sunday, November 1 marks the return to Standard Time for Alaska and many other states. It’s time to be reminded—as we are twice yearly—that time is arbitrary.
I oppose Daylight Saving Time on general principle. I accept that in some parts of the world it saves energy to a certain extent, although not nearly as much as proponents would have us believe. I dislike shifting time in such a cavalier manner. I despise that we now operate on “standard” time for a smaller percentage of the year than “daylight” time.
We all remember the concept, promoted, but not invented by Benjamin Franklin. By shifting time an hour forward in the spring, we move working hours (and this is mostly farm working hours—a time concept now totally alien to most Americans) into the available daylight.
The problem for Alaska is that we are so far north that our daylight changes drastically between the summer and winter solstices, so much so that it completely overwhelms—and thereby negates—the advantages of Daylight Saving Time.
Alaska is a really, really big state. This is something few people appreciate, largely thanks to the economy of map printing. Because of space considerations, most maps show the state beside Hawaii, about the size of Nevada, in an inset just off the southwest coast of California. Actually, if you could lay the state of Alaska over the rest of the United States, our northernmost and southernmost points would touch the Canadian and Mexican borders of the U.S. Our easternmost and westernmost points would touch the east and west coasts of the U.S. mainland.
Alaska used to have four time zones! In 1983 those zones were consolidated into two, Alaska Standard Time and Aleutian Standard Time. The tip of the Aleutian chain is so far west the International Date Line bends around it to keep it in the same day as the rest of the state. We are that big!
We’re already messing around with time in Alaska with the unified time zone and our wild swings in daylight. Adjusting the clocks twice yearly doesn’t help in the winter, and is completely unnecessary in the summer.
There have been several bills before the Alaska State Legislature proposing that we as a state do away with this daylight saving foolishness. They seldom get out of committee, largely because a vocal group of Alaska business people is afraid of trying to adjust their dealings with the rest of the U.S. My personal opinion is that they’re already doing this anyway with the existing time differences. If they can’t adapt to a new, simpler time configuration, perhaps they don’t have the mental acuity to be running a business in the first place?
I know that we can never return to “real” time, marking noon when the sun is highest over one’s head. Some standardization is necessary in the modern world, and if the majority of the country shifts time by an hour twice yearly, it can be argued that we all should. I urge everyone to get outside a little each and every day, pay more attention to where the sun is over your head, when it rises and when it sets. Tune in to that natural rhythm, and you’ll notice a change for the better in the way you think and feel. We can’t always change the state, or the nation, but we can always change ourselves for the better.
This rant accomplishes nothing, other than making me feel better. If I may misquote Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the saving of the light!“