Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fashions in Time

Last Sunday we entered a kind of Twilight Zone—and our visceral memories knew it. So did the batteries in the simple clock that hangs in our kitchen. In the morning Brigitte wondered: Had Daylight Savings Time ended? Had I failed to reset clocks? And the kitchen clock stopped in protest. Turns out that right up to 2006, DST in the United States ended on the last Sunday in October. But the Energy Policy Act of 2005 had moved the start of DST up in time to the second Sunday in March—and lengthened its duration to first Sunday in November. All this in the name of saving energy. We will do anything, in other words, except something genuinely effective, to save energy. A graphic to make things clear:

We used to call this “summer time,” and once upon a time it had some relationship to the movement of the sun—although nowhere uniformly. European Summer Time extends from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. But fall ends in September. Still, that is closer. With the change that set in for us here in 2007, summer time pretty much lost its meaning—summer very much over when somber November starts enduring after the pumpkins have been carved.

Ever since Germany introduced DST (as Sommerzeit) in 1916, it has had progressive proponents and traditionalist opponents. Something about “summer time” does indeed remind me of the renaming of months after the French Revolution. Fashions in time are fashions in culture. It strikes me as significant that the trend now is to abandon DST. Most of the globe’s population no longer lives under the DST dispensation. A quite large country left DST behind: Russia under Medvedev—why, just this year! The map I present from Wikipedia (link) shows how things now stand.

As for us, I replaced the batteries in the kitchen clock. And we anticipate “falling back” in the Fall, thus on Sunday morning, November 5.

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