NEW FEATURE!

Daylight saving time: Something to smile about

By Denis Gullickson

Consider this a follow-up to a January column entitled “Ode to a Green Bay Winter — Not!”

 

Written in mid-December, the goal back then wasn’t to celebrate winter, believe me. It was to delineate some of our area’s historic bouts with the wintry elements. I sure the heck wasn’t urging Mother Nature and Old Man Winter to commingle and procreate three month’s worth of record-low temperatures and back-breaking snow — adding to the legacy.

 

Consider this month’s installment a bid for redemption, then. And, hopefully, a hoorah for the fact that things have turned around — weather-wise, at least.

 

And that’s the point at which things get interesting. The lengthening of days and the warming of air triggers an improvement in our psyches — this year, even in the most-diehard aficionados of winter.

 

“Spring forward, fall back” — the recipe for adjusting our clocks twice each year — implies something gained now and, then, surrendered come autumn. For this author, educator, farmer and horse owner, the extra boost from an age-old device known as daylight saving time (DST) is more than welcome — it’s eagerly anticipated. Perhaps, even, necessary.

 

(By the way, this column is written while yet another snowstorm howls outside — a “moderate” 3 to 5 inches forecast; schools closing early. Looking into next week, the last week of February — and, therefore, of meteorological winter — we see plunging temperatures with highs drastically below normal again!)

 

Saving the Daylight

Of time changes my buddy Paul says, “We’re not changing the clocks, we’re moving the sun.” A tongue-in-cheek observation underscoring just how futile human endeavor really is — or not.

 

Officially, you can get up at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, March 9 and move your clock one hour ahead. Save for those carousers who might usher in the shift with some early-morning antics, most of us will tend to the task before hitting the rack the night before.

 

Synchronized, digitized clocks will actually jump from 1:59 to 3:00 a.m. — for those of you who can stomach that kind of blood-curdling action. Car clocks usually wait until sometime on Monday or later. (Unless you’re my wife, then the darned thing will definitely be reset before May or the next time you and your husband swap vehicles.)

Ben Franklin is usually credited with “inventing” DST, but the ancients appreciated the idea of maximizing the increased daylight — employing a concept of “unequal hours.” Roman water clocks actually used different scales for the summer months — lengthening particular hours from 44 minutes at the winter solstice to 75 minutes at the summer solstice.

 

While he served as an envoy to France in 1784, Franklin did suggest that Parisians economize their use of candles by adjusting their daily schedules to the changes in daylight. In a whimsical bit of satire — “An Economical Project” — he proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles and rousting citizens at sunrise by ringing church bells and firing cannons.

 

The fact that Franklin published his piece anonymously or presented it as satire, probably tells us what we need to know about the popularity of his concept at the time — even with a known night owl like Franklin himself.

 

Yes, he did say, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” The “early to bed” part was just a goal for an aging Franklin who’d already made his fortune — as he often partied, parlayed or played chess until the wee hours and then dozed until noon.

 

It was one particular morning — when he was rudely awakened at 6 a.m. to what he found was surprising burst of daylight — that he realized he himself lived what one might call an “artificial” day: sleeping through at least six hours of sunlight and then “burning the midnight candlelight” as it were for another six hours. Of the experience, he wrote:

 

“I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day towards the end of June; and that no time during the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o clock …

 

“Your readers, who with me have never seen any sign of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this …

 

“183 nights between 20 March and 20 September times 7 hours per night of candle usage equals 1,281 hours for a half year of candle usage. Multiplying by 100,000 families gives 128,100,000 hours by candlelight. Each candle requires half a pound of tallow and wax, thus a total of 64,050,000 pounds. At a price of thirty sols per pounds of tallow and wax (two hundred sols make one livre tournois), the total sum comes to 96,075,000 livre tournois… An immense sum, that the city of Paris might save every year.”

 

Newer Twists

The proposal of modern DST is often ascribed to a New Zealander — George Vernon Hudson — who suggested a two-hour time shift in 1898. He liked the idea of having more time to press his  passion for entomology after his work day. British builder and outdoorsman William Willett is also given a nod for his 1905-suggestion that Londoners get their behinds moving a tad earlier in the summer.

 

The first serious use of DST was prompted by war. On April 30, 1916, Germany and its allies implemented “Sommerzeit” (“summer time”) to conserve coal and other resources. Not wanting the enemy to get the jump, Britain and several of its allies did the same as a countermeasure. By 1918, the idea had caught on in Russia as well as the U.S.

 

The end of the WWI saw most countries return to standard time. WWII inspired resumption of DST in some areas, then it once again faded. The energy crisis in the 1970s gave the practice renewed support — especially in industrialized North America and Europe.

 

Since then, the concept has been tweaked, evaluated and tweaked some more. In 2007, President George W. Bush extended DST by a month — adding three weeks at the front (to the second Sunday in March) and one week at the back (to the first Sunday in November).

 

At the time, polls showed that most people favored the extension — valuing the fact that longer, sunlit evenings extended one’s leisure time. Their sentiment was shared by businesses utilizing the outdoors such as golf courses and theme parks, which saw that longer daylight hours also encourage venturing out, away from home. Not surprisingly, the automobile and petroleum industries likewise support DST.

 

Some objected. The airline industry, for instance, cited millions of dollars in costs associated with changing schedules and schools expressed concern about kids once again waiting for buses in morning darkness. Movie theaters have long-opposed DST — believing that those longer summer evenings dissuade folks from catching a flick.

 

The squabble over whether a shift in time saves energy remains firmly intact. When the initiative was reinvigorated in the ‘70s, it was estimated that the move could save as many 100,000 barrels of oil per day. According to a 1975 study, daylight saving trims the nation’s energy consumption by about one percent a day — mostly when it first gets going in March and April, however.

 

Why All the Fuss?

DST is really only a debate in the planet’s temperate zones — making no sense at the earth’s center and extremes. Near the equator, there is little change in the relative day and night-time, no matter what time of year it is. Close to the North and South Poles, the fluctuation in the amount of daylight between winter and summer is so dramatic that a shift of an hour or two makes little difference.

 

Leave it to numbers to complicate an issue, though: For nearly every study out there showing energy savings, improved public health, crime reduction and economic stimulation through employing DST — another study shows the opposite.

 

Some studies have actually shown an increase in energy consumption during DST — particularly where hot summers drive up the use of air conditioning. Folks hammering that point cite an Indiana example which showed such an increase in 16 counties that had resisted DST and, then, relented.

 

Estimates suggest that — rather than a projected $7 million saving — those counties incurred an $8.6 million increase in energy expenditures. Researchers parsing those numbers attribute the difference to the use of air conditioning during longer summer evenings.

 

DST proponents also point to a public health perk, as it does result in decreased traffic accidents and fatalities by around one percent. In fact, the return to standard time in the fall produces a three-fold increase in pedestrian-car accidents from the period shortly before daylight saving ends.

 

Opponents counter with the fact that heart attacks surge by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday after the shift. Nearly everyone’s circadian rhythms are tossed around by the biennial one-hour shifts in routine and most people complain that it takes a few days to make the adjustment.

 

Fans of DST mention an economic boon as longer summer days — resulting in greater human activity — stimulate economic growth. In 1984, “Fortune” magazine projected that a seven-week extension of DST would generate an extra $30 million for 7-Eleven Stores. The National Golf Foundation estimated such an extension would bump that industry’s annual net income from $200 million to $300 million.

Detractors point to increased gas consumption and other negative residuals resulting from that same increased activity.

In 2010, “Businessweek” posted “Let’s Turn Off DST” in which it made a pitch for year-round DST, stating that the “advantages of year-round DST — including energy conservation, crime reduction, and lives saved — clearly outweigh the disadvantages. It is past time for us to shift our thinking permanently forward on DST.”

 

Meanwhile, a National Geographic article from November, 2013, entitled “Time to Move On,” basically threw the book at DST, suggesting that most folks thought it “wasn’t worth the hassle.” There’s a website — www.standardtime.com — dedicated to eliminating DST and numerous others that decry its ridiculousness.

 

Complaints about DST seem to fluctuate somewhat. They may not be so loud or pronounced this year, for instance — following a winter that has absolutely put us through the ringer. That sudden shot of extra daylight in the evening may afford opportunities to make up for a winter spent hunkered down trying to stay warm by thumbing through pamphlets of Caribbean hotspots and plant catalogs.

 

Through the ages, the tug of war over DST has typically raged between rural folks and city folks — though it isn’t just that simple either.

 

In criticizing the concept, one old-timer said, “I notice Ma Nature don’t get the dew off the grass in accord with DST.” A poultry farmer said, “The chickens don’t give a shit what time it is. I have to get out there and feed them at the same time whether I want to call it ‘five’ or ‘six.’”

 

Farmers have long lamented that DST had no effect on their schedules, but further alienated them from the rest of the world, which had surged an hour ahead. That wasn’t just a social complaint; it was also an economic one impacting farmer’s markets and other business points.

 

But changing demographics are also reducing that kind of griping considerably — even from those involved in agriculture. Farming nowadays is an occupation — not nearly the lifestyle that it was a century ago. Many farmers farm part-time and appreciate the opportunity to engage in that pursuit after working their job elsewhere. Farm workers — who often now live in the city — are not bound so directly to the daylight as they once were either.

 

The controversy has also dissipated some in recent years as more and more of the world’s population is gravitating toward “megapolises” and away from rural areas, but there certainly are pockets of protestations where people insist DST just “isn’t natural.”

 

Some have also called the concept “daylight ‘slaving’ time” since the longer day often triggers more activity — some even averring that it’s all part of the plot for government control by keeping citizens sleep deprived and vulnerable. Others weigh in that — like most such grandiose efforts — it’s all a matter of “following the money.”

Other overt critics suggest that the adjustment is much too much for them and that the return to standard time in fall is just as upsetting to their systems. Stating that most of the countries that once had DST have ditched it, one online writer added, “Once again, the United States finds itself behind the curve for realizing that antiquated and pointless traditions are, well, antiquated and pointless.”

 

No Longer SAD!

All that said, how could anyone object to some extra daylight at the theoretical end of one’s workday? Truth is, there’s always been some controversy — there always will be. Even today, there are proposals to make DST permanent year-round and other propositions to eliminate altogether.

If you’ve been feeling the blues, big time these past few monthsn… join the club. Actually, you can remain a member of the club known as mankind while those few souls who love this kind of crap can form a new club.

 

I have one rule and one axiom as winter ticks by: If you’ve vacationed in a sunny, warm climate, I don’t want to hear about it; if you love the change of seasons, you probably live in a full-service gated community.

 

Here on the farmland west of Titletown, it’s been brutal. We don’t have neighbors. No, as far as the eye can see to north and west are open fields and distant woods. When the bitter cold winter winds come whipping out of those directions, you feel every single negative degree of wind chill.

 

After our fifth or sixth cold snap, the water to our back barn froze in the ground five feet below the surface. That prompted nothing more than hauling fifty gallons of water 150’ in five gallon pails most days and a quarter-ton of water once each weekend.

Okay, buck up you say. But this year, it’s been a steady barrage — a pummeling, if you will — of bitter cold left-jabs and right upper cuts of driving snow. It’s been especially taxing to hear of people wondering what they were going to do when their propane fuel ran out.

 

“Snow-rage” isn’t a familiar term, but instances across the country of tires being slashed in skirmishes over parking spaces and guns being pulled on snowplow drivers tell us just how edgy some of us have become. Psychologists coining the phrase see it’s potentially deadly manifest right there with “road rage.”

 

And before someone tells you just to “get over it,” you should realize that the condition is legit. “Seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) is characterized by a lack of energy, a tendency to overeat and oversleep, difficulty concentrating, irritability and a withdrawal from other people.

 

Depression, pessimism, hopelessness and a lack of pleasure are symptoms of being “SAD.” Some theorize that SAD is an “evolved adaptation” in humans — a remnant or variant of the hibernation response in our ancestors and one more thing to blame on them.

 

Here Comes the Sun

Of course, next up is the Vernal Equinox on March 20 — signaling a day of 12 hours of actual sunlight. That, as we make our way toward the “longest” day of the year — Saturday, June 21.

 

Combined with DST, the equinox is a one-two dance step of joy in which we welcome warm, sunny days to come. Average high temperatures for March leap from 42 degrees to 53 degrees over the month. Sunrise shifts from 6:29 a.m. to 6:35 a.m. (5:35 relatively speaking).

Come April, things get even better. Ahead are days spent out of doors, less concerned with dressing in layers than where you laid down your drink. I heartily endorse the transition.

 

Alright, enough about the weather. Here’s related good news:

 

Baseball season gets into full swing in a few short weeks. The Brewers wrap up Cactus League action on the 29th and open at home against the Braves on Monday the 31st. The Timber Rattlers “Play Ball” for the first time in Appleton against Peoria on Thursday, April 3. GB’s Bullfrogs make their initial appearance at Joannes Park on Tuesday, May 27.

 

While the Wildlife Sanctuary has offered respite all winter, other area attractions begin to come to life as well. Bay Beach Amusement Park opens the first Saturday in May, but well before that the city’s parks and recreation areas will be teeming with folks putting this hard winter behind them.

The GB Parks and Rec Department is ready, too. You can sign up for summer leagues in several sports.

 

Adult Bocce Ball, for instance, is said to be “one of the fastest growing sports” in town. Leagues are available for  co-ed teams in advanced or intermediate divisions. Teams consist of 2 players, 18 years of age or older. Matches are played weekly at Colburn Park for approximately 8 weeks beginning on April 27. Deadline for applying is April 16.

Adult Tennis Leagues don’t limit you to a specific night of the week. You and your opponent agree to the time and battle it out at various GB parks. Leagues are available for all ability levels from the beginner to advanced players. League play begins the week of April 27.

 

Summer softball has long been a staple of warmer weather in Titletown — hearkening back to the first days of GB baseball in the years after the Civil War. Here, things get going pretty early. Resident teams with at least 51 percent of players living in GB can priority register through March 17. Open registration begins March 18-24. A manager’s meeting is set for April 16, with league play to begin the week of April 28.

For outdoor music fans, details are yet to come. But if this summer is anything like last, the downtown area will be echoing with the sweet strains of live music. Farmer’s markets, street festivals and fairs are also in the offing.

 

Hang in there. We’ve turned the corner. Days are getting noticeably longer already and that “bump” in daylight coming in the early morning hours of March 9 is going to help put the winter of 2013-14 behind us.

 

For now, we’ll worry about the slip back into darkness when the time comes. ν

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