As the late afternoon stretches toward 7 p.m. these days, there’s still enough light outside for the kids on my street to play. And play they do. Tracking each other down with squirt guns, kicking balls, supercharging their superhero action figures that, sometimes forgotten, rest overnight on my front steps. It’s a glorious sound, their joyful use of every extra minute of prolonged daylight. It sure beats the noiselessness of kids inside their houses, hunched over their electronics.
So why is state legislation bent on taking this away from them?
Assembly Bill 807 is San Jose Assemblyman Kansen Chu’s second attempt to place a measure on the ballot that’s intended to lead California away from daylight saving time and leave us with earlier sunsets all year round. The March change of time messes with people’s circadian rhythms, causing fatigue for some and certainly a few missed appointments over the first couple of days. Kids find it hard to get to sleep at first.
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That’s inconvenient, yes. But it’s a couple of days that buys us a nature-lit evening for 29 weeks a year. On a practical level, the change also would put us out of time whack with 47 other states. It’s already tough enough doing business with the East Coast, which is three hours ahead of us. Only Hawaii and Arizona stick with standard time year round. But Hawaii is out there doing its own thing in the ocean, and who wants to be anything like Arizona, anyway?
Considering the millions of plane trips Americans take every year to other time zones, it seems whiny to worry about a small, twice-yearly clock change. If businesspeople can hop a couple of time zones, attend all their meetings, return a week later, and repeat multiple times a year, surely we can manage a few days each year of being a little fuzzy about the precise time.
Some people count the start of spring by the calendar or, celestially speaking, the vernal equinox. I count two springs each year. One is in January, when the first wildflowers appear and the height of the California hiking season is just beginning. The other is when, after weeks of watching the sun slow its afternoon plunge to the horizon, there’s the sudden “spring forward” bonus hour. Once again, we deliver ourselves from darkness! The close of work time isn’t the signal to huddle inside against the darkness. It’s when playtime begins.
But then, the only time I ever felt daylight length could be overdone was on a trip to the Arctic during summer solstice, when the sun refused to get within shouting distance of the horizon.
Under the legislation, California could switch to year-round daylight saving time if the federal government ever allowed it. Right now, the law requires standard time from November to March, which doesn’t make much sense; why should the end of the winter workday be the same as the end of the day? It makes even less sense in California, where the weather generally allows for outdoor recreation year-round.
It’s been an especially dark few months, starting in November; the foreshortened days of standard time felt more than a little coincidental. Extended sunlight can’t fix the abomination of the new administration in Washington; too bad we can’t shrivel it, like a vampire, with the light of day. But tunneling out of the short days of winter toward sunlit evenings brightens our senses and imbues us with optimism. If we can reclaim the light in one way, maybe there’s hope for eliminating other forces of darkness.
Karin Klein is a freelance journalist in Orange County who has covered education, science and food policy. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kklein100.