Do we really need time zones?


A couple of weeks ago most Americans, many in Arizona and everyone in Hawai’i excluded, “fell back” with the end of Daylight Saving Time. And as happens in this twice a year ritual of changing the clocks, they “spring ahead” in March, there is some discussion about ending Daylight Saving Time. For example, Jacqueline Ronson writes for Inverse, “Daylight saving time is a nightmare… If you do business between Los Angeles and Phoenix, say, you’ll have to remember that they’re on the same time part of the year, and an hour apart the rest.”

However, another topic needs to be discussed: eliminating time zones, altogether. It’s not as crazy as you may think, and few people think about the real-world consequences of time zones. The Decatur Daily News reported a decade ago about the anomaly of towns on the border of the Eastern & Central Time Zones, “for generations, the economic vitality of Columbus [Georgia] has lured Alabama commuters across the river in pursuit of jobs.” Adding that in some border towns, “people set their watches by their jobs — not geography.
It’s created a gray zone where clocks are second-guessed and what time it is depends on whom you ask.”

The US Naval Observatory (USNO) says, “Standard time in time zones was instituted in the US and Canada by the railroads on 18 November 1883. [And then adopted by law in the US in 1918] Before then, time of day was a local matter.” Now, time is literally a global matter, especially when one considers how many companies rely on global trade. Many of those companies, and indeed some entire industries – aviation, for example – operate on what is called Universal Time, also called UTC, you may know it as Greenwich Mean Time.

Would dropping time zones take some getting used to? Certainly, but it also takes people a few days to adjust to the twice annual changing of the clocks, and the implementation of time zones was resisted by some 133 years ago. USNO adds, “Use of standard time gradually increased because of its obvious practical advantages for communication and travel.”

With the prevalence of technology in most of the world, adjusting to a single time zone would not be too terribly difficult, and it would make cross-region communications easier. No more worrying if your client in Phoenix is 2 hours or 3 hours behind you. The people living in border towns would no longer need a “work clock” and a “home clock” because everything would be set to UTC. The federal government has only been legislating time for less than 100 years, it’s time to advocate for separation of time and state!

2 thoughts on “Do we really need time zones?

  1. Swatch time was the best implementation of a single time zone.

  2. I agree, but we don’t need the government to make the change-over. Individuals and businesses can start using UTC without a central mandate.

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