Time is eternal, but it is not necessarily definite. Since the Washington Meridian Conference in 1884, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) has been used to define the prime meridian (which travels through Greenwich, UK) has the reference time for global time measurements. From this grew time zones, a tool used to standardize local times which are adjusted to reflect the solar time of each local area. Today, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) has replaced GMT as the global standard although many people mistakenly use the two as synonymous.
Recently, Spain has been discussing changing its time zone. when I first heard the news, I was surprised – why would a country want to randomly change its local time?
Well, as it turns out Spain is already different. In 1940 Francisco Franco, then dictator of Spain, advanced the Spanish clocks by one hour so that the country’s time was aligned with that of Franco’s fascist allies in Nazi Germany. To this day Spain has remained in the UTC+1 time zone despite the fact that the prime meridian actually passes through the eastern portion of the country. This causes a later sunrise and later sunset, something that reminds me of the unique cultural traditions where Spaniards often eat dinner well after 10pm.
Likewise, in 2008 Brazil’s government changed the time zone of its westernmost lands from UTC-5 to UTC-4 in order to reduce economic and physical separation between Brazil’s western and eastern divisions. However, locals found this unacceptable due to less daylight in the morning. In a 2010 a majority voted for a return to the original time zone, and just this year the Brazilian Senate passed a bill doing just that. The change will take place on November 10, 2013.
Kind-of ridiculous, right? And that does not even cover Daylight Savings Time (DST), first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 to increase daylight during the waking hours (but you already knew that since everyone loves National Treasure). DST took over a century to come to fruition, making its first appearance during WWI. Today, countries and even regions within countries are split on their observance of daylight savings time. Brazil is one such country with split observance, further exasperating the debated time differential.
I don’t usually think of time as something that is negotiable, but the news of the discussions in Spain sparked my interest in this obscure topic. Check it out – it is quite interesting.