Newsletter: Year-round daylight saving time isn’t the solution to clock-changing madness

Oarswomen practice sculling in the Los Angeles Harbor as the sun rises over San Pedro.
Oarswomen practice sculling in the Los Angeles Harbor as the sun rises over San Pedro on Oct. 28.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, March 11, 2023. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

Sunday morning at 2 a.m. is the “spring forward” start to daylight saving time, the scheme that convinces a fair amount of people that another hour of sunshine can be added to a day by government fiat. This, of course, is nonsense, since daylight saving time merely declares evening sunshine to be of greater value than morning light. It’s a zero-sum bargain.

Which is why, as the father of three children who react as if their civil rights have been violated when awakened for school, I find this a horrible time of year. What was a 6:30 a.m. rousting with sunlight streaming through the window suddenly turns into a pre-dawn struggle, and all the assurance that this is just the way it’s done because the law requires this clock change fails to disabuse my children of the immutable truth of school mornings: It’s always my fault.

So I’m drawn to any argument against this semiannual ritual (though I find “fall back” an easier adjustment). The amount of sunlight is determined solely by the position of the Earth around the sun, so adjusting clocks to trick people into thinking they’re “saving” daylight is a silly exercise. The Times Editorial Board echoes this frustration:


“After the time shift on Sunday, let’s not forget how ridiculous it is to follow this twice-a-year ritual, created for a purpose few remember (something about farmers? Or kids walking to school?). Let us remember this foolishness and call on elected officials to end this outdated tradition and allow Americans to stick to one time year-round.

“The good news is that many of our leaders in Washington have already voted in favor of ending the clock switching. Last March, just two days after the clocks moved forward an hour, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would have kept the U.S. on permanent daylight saving time. Who says there’s nothing that Republicans and Democrats can agree upon? ....

“There’s a growing call to end the switch for health reasons, as moving the clock back and forth abruptly upsets our circadian cycles, and can mean bad patches of sleep after each switch. And a few studies have suggested there’s a connection between poor sleep as a result of the time change and increased traffic accidents and heart attacks.”

So the best bet to end this clock-lurching insanity is a bill adopting permanent daylight saving — and right there, that’s where this effort completely loses me. Year-round daylight saving would mean dark mornings from December to February, and all I can say to that is “no thanks.” It would mean January sunrises close to 8 a.m. — for my children, that’s the start of the school day. Yes, they’d get another hour of daylight after school, but months of fully pre-dawn school mornings sound like an awful trade-off — as if we’d be asking children to suffer so adults who work 9 to 5 can have slightly more pleasant evenings part of the year.

If the choice is between year-round daylight saving time and the clocks continuing to change twice a year, I’m on Team Clocks Change. And it isn’t even close. Now, if Rubio’s bill were to consider year-round standard time (currently practiced in Arizona and Hawaii), I could get behind that — anything that doesn’t doom children to pre-pre-pre-dawn awakenings all winter.

All that rain and snow! How can California still be in drought? More of the wet stuff is falling Saturday, making the word “drought” seem meaningless to most people. The editorial board suggests better terminology for a state that chronically uses more water than nature can supply: “Instead of drought, we should talk about going into water debt, and refer to wet periods as winning the water lottery.... This year’s rain and snow help pay down a bit of our water debt by refilling once-empty reservoirs in Northern and Central California. But it did not change conditions at Lakes Mead and Powell on the Colorado River, which supplies much of Southern California’s water. Since 2000, when those reservoirs were last at capacity, we’ve been drawing them down to almost nothing. They were filled by an earlier jackpot that paid out during the 20th century, which was — the geological records tells us — an abnormally wet period.” L.A. Times

Whiplash in the San Bernardino Mountains: Wildfire in the summer, blizzards in March. More than 70 years ago my wife’s grandfather built her family’s cabin in Big Bear City, which like other local mountain communities is still digging out from catastrophic winter storms that hit starting Feb. 23. We’re fortunate to be regulars in Big Bear, so it breaks my heart to see the mountain community paralyzed by record snow and tragedy (already authorities conducting welfare checks are finding people trapped in their homes who died). The thing is, Big Bear and its eponymous lake desperately need this moisture, and just last summer we were carefully monitoring the Radford fire’s perilous march toward homes and a ski resort. For our op-ed page, I wrote about the alternating fire-and-ice natural disasters that have hit Big Bear. L.A. Times

The snow has wreaked havoc — but it is gorgeous. In Los Angeles, we have the benefit of experiencing winter weather from a distance: We get the stunning views of white-capped mountains without actually having to dig out our homes and cars. Snow on the highest local mountains isn’t an unusual sight, but the latest storms were so cold and so powerful that they covered lower-lying landscapes that only rarely see any other precipitation than rain. So, in addition to Mt. Baldy’s usual winter coat, we were treated to less typical sights like Joshua trees and palms smothered in powder. If these storms leave us with anything, it’s some really wonderful photos. The Atlantic

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He called for more research on the COVID “lab leak theory.” Here’s what he found out. Michael Worobey, head of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, isn’t sold on the idea that COVID originated from a lab in China: “Lab leak proponents cling to the contention that the presence of a lab that studies viruses and the emergence of a coronavirus pandemic in the same city can’t possibly be coincidental. But my colleagues and I showed in 2021 that this virus wasn’t going to emerge just anywhere in China: It took a city. Simulations indicate that when a virus with the properties of SARS-CoV-2 jumps into a human in a sparsely populated rural area, it will fail to cause an outbreak 99% of the time. But take that same virus into a huge city like Wuhan, and about a third of animal-to-human transmissions will result in an epidemic.” L.A. Times

Walgreens is despicable for bowing to pressure not to sell abortion pills in some states. Attorneys general from 21 Republican-led states were on shaky legal ground when they wrote a letter to Walgreens warning the drug store chain against selling abortion bills by mail in the U.S. In fact, abortion — including medication abortion — is legal in half those 21 states; they just happen to be led by officials hostile to abortion. Walgreens caved anyway, and the editorial board is livid: “Shame on Walgreens executives who have rewarded years of support from customers with a cold shoulder just when they need help most. This spineless betrayal has already caused the company’s stock to dip amid understandable calls for boycotts. Walgreens should reverse course, take back promises made to antiabortion politicians and loudly affirm that the chain will indeed sell mifepristone in every state where abortion is legal.” L.A. Times

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