Falling back, and looking back

Nov. 03, 2013 @ 09:40 PM

If you’re a worker who hits his or her office around 8 a.m., chances are this morning brings a significant change over recent days in your commute.

Once again, it’s light.

Of course, if you head home around 5:30 in the evening, you’ll be turning on your headlights in a routine that will last now for many weeks.

It is a semiannual ritual, this adjusting of clocks at 2 a.m. on a Sunday. The practice has ebbed and flowed in this country, initially launched during World War I to save coal, dropped in peacetime, reinstituted in World War II and observed unevenly afterward. In the 1970s, daylight savings time became popular as a means, supposedly, of saving energy. For a period of time during the ‘70s energy crisis we went to year-round daylight savings’ time – putting commuters and school kids out on the streets in the dark until practically time for the first coffee break.

Ironically, the reasoning then – and now – may be off the mark. “Studies show that Daylight Saving Time actually results in a one percent overall increase in residential electricity,” Charlotte Alter wrote on Time.com last week as the switching hour approached.

Allison Schrager, writing in theatlantic.com, also noted that energy savings were minimal or nonexistent, and then went even further:

 “Frequent and uncoordinated time changes cause confusion, undermining economic efficiency. There’s evidence that regularly changing sleep cycles, associated with daylight saving, lowers productivity and increases heart attacks. Being out of sync with European time changes was projected to cost the airline industry $147 million a year in travel disruptions.”

Whew!

We suspect daylight savings time is one of those topics that can generate far more disagreement than the topic really warrants – like the designated hitter or light beer, or who will be invited to Kim Kardashian’s and Kanye West’s wedding.

But the time switch also signals that fall is truly here, and winter not far behind. It might be a good time to reflect gratefully on what we haven’t had this summer and early fall. No 100-degree plus days and darned few in the 90s. No drought – the National Weather Service says our rainfall over the past six months is running about 4 inches or 18 percent above normal for the period.

And while the hurricane season is not yet over, we are very late into it with nary even a pummeling tropical storm passing through our region. For those who remember our friends Floyd and Fran and Hugo, that’s no small relief.

So whether you’re pleased with daylight earlier in the morning, irritated by earlier darkness or basically just glad to have had an extra hour of sleep Sunday and “whatever…” for the rest of it, you can at least be glad we’ve had more good rainfall and less bad, and no parched lawns and dwindling reservoirs this year.

And just maybe we’ll eventually realize these twice-yearly clock changes do more harm than good, and abandon them altogether.