Voter Guide 2018: Time is a Human Construct

Voter Guide 2018: Time is a Human Construct

Time is a strange thing.  Scientists aren’t entirely sure what it is, what it’s for, or even if it exists at all.  And yet, humans measure and mark time, we’ve divided the world into “time zones,” and we manipulate time to suit our needs.  On the 2018 ballot Californians even get to vote on how time works for the second time in seventy years.


Prop 7 - Authorizes the Legislature to Approve Permanent Daylight Saving Time

If passed, Prop 7 would allow the legislature to enact permanent Daylight Saving Time (DST) by a two-thirds vote, but a change to permanent DST would only go into effect if Congress   changes the law to allow it. Prop 7 is on the ballot because voters approved the switch to enact our current DST system back in 1949, and only the voters can repeal it. Changing our clocks back and forth twice a year is a strange process that has been shown to result in productivity losses and health and safety risks such as increased car accidents in the days immediately following the time change.  We’re basically giving our bodies mild jet lag without the perks of actually going anywhere. To make matters worse, the energy benefits supposedly associated with the time change are minimal to nonexistent. This annual practice is inconvenient at best, and detrimental to our health at worst.

That said, there are challenges associated with a switch to permanent Daylight Saving Time.  The most concerning issue is that it would stay dark until relatively late in the morning, with the sun rising as late as 8 a.m. in the depths of winter in Los Angeles.  And if that doesn’t seem all that concerning, consider the northern extremes of the state, where it would stay dark until 8:45 a.m. for much of December in places like Eureka, raiseing some obvious safety concerns.  Moreover, a permanent DST would awkwardly align California with the Mountain time zone for part of the year, rather than the Pacific leaving Nevada an hour earlier than California, even though it’s located to the east of us.  

Alternative strategies to avoid the biannual clock changes aren’t any better: switching to permanent Standard Time would have California spend the majority of each year an additional hour behind the rest of the continental US (four hours behind the east coast instead of three, and one hour behind the rest of the current Pacific time zone), and sunrise times in the summer could be as early as 4 a.m.  

All that said, a statewide—or even national—conversation about the usefulness of our current DST system would be welcome.  Though Congress and the current White House seem more intent on denigrating and punishing California whenever possible, similar efforts to eliminate time changes in places like Florida, and long-established lack of DST in Arizona and Hawaii may force the topic to greater prominence.  (In an ideal world, we would be having a nationwide conversation to come up with a new time system that can work effectively across the country without requiring any changes to our clocks, but we don’t live in that world.) We’re not sure that permanent DST is the ideal solution, but it’s likely the most workable compromise available at the moment.  Furthermore, passing this measure doesn’t guarantee permanent DST, it just allows the legislature to consider it, and any actual change would require further federal approval, both of which are far from certain. At the end of the day, this proposition simply takes the stance that changing our clocks twice a year is disruptive and unnecessary, a stance we wholeheartedly agree with.

Vote YES on Prop 7.