The Weekly Rant with Gary Patella

Thoughts and ideas on various grievances that are relevant to everyday life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Daylight Saving Time

Most countries have had in the past, or still have today, a form of daylight saving time. Although there are many that support the idea, as a purist I am against it. Changing standard time to some fake time just seems wrong.

There are a lot of sources out there that mention Benjamin Franklin as the first to propose daylight saving time. What Franklin actually proposed was that people should wake up earlier. During his time as an envoy to France, he thought the people of Paris were sleeping too late. But waking people up early is far different from actually changing the clocks.

The true first proposal of daylight savings was in 1895 by an entomologist named George Vernon Hudson. But this was a selfish motive, since it seems his only desire was to have more daylight after work so that he could collect insects. Furthermore, he wanted the clocks pushed ahead by two hours.

William Willet proposed daylight saving time in 1905, and that proposal went to the House of Commons and was shot down in 1908. However, the idea was put into effect only eight years later. Germany started using daylight saving time in 1916 in order to save fuel for the war effort during World War I. Britain then adopted the policy shortly after, and then the United States used daylight saving time in 1918. After the war, most countries simply reverted back to standard time.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted War Time which was essentially year-round daylight saving time. It lasted from 1942 to 1945. After 1945, daylight saving time was used without any real rules. Different areas were using it at different times, and so the Uniform Time Act had to be created in 1966 to specify when daylight saving time is used. It was stated that it begins on the last Sunday of April and ends on the last Sunday of October.

Nowadays, we have daylight saving time most of the year! It now begins in early March and ends in November. I think it is ridiculous to have the fake time on our clocks for 2/3 of the year. I don't wish to entertain any of the pseudointellectual philosophical views on what constitutes time, statements like "My time can be just as real as your time," and other such nonsense. Living on a planet that revolves completely around the sun every 365.243 days, we have enough validation in using mean solar time. Changing the clocks to some other time is absurd.

Furthermore, the arguments for actually using daylight saving time are rather weak. Upon analysis, the energy savings seem to be nonexistent. The reduced lighting costs are typically offset or even surpassed by the higher air conditioning costs on hot afternoons. In 2007, the California Energy Commission published a statistical analysis on the effect of an earlier daylight saving time (i.e. changing from the last Sunday in April to early March). This study showed that the change had no effect on electricity consumption. I believe that if the study were conducted for daylight saving time in general, there would also be no real effect.

Besides the argument that daylight saving time achieves nothing, there are other reasons to avoid changing the clocks. The first three weeks after the transition to daylight saving time sees an increase in heart attacks. When switching back to standard time, fewer heart attacks are reported. It may seem strange that pushing the clocks ahead an hour can create that much stress, but the correlation does exist.

Furthermore, sleep patterns and chronobiological rhythms are disrupted by switching the clocks. For the first few weeks after pushing the clocks ahead an hour, work productivity has been shown to go down in most industries. People are forced to get up an hour earlier, and this obviously leads to a lack of productivity.

There are also problems with people using medical devices that have clocks. This is especially relevant to devices that give doses of medication at specific times. Incorrect doses, missed doses, or extra doses of medicine could all result from daylight saving time. This is especially true when the standards for changing the clocks are constantly being changed.

In short, there are no real positives to daylight saving time and a number of negatives. It is time to end this useless practice. Thanks to the increased months of daylight saving time, we can't even use the old expressions of "Spring forward, fall back." We now have to say "Winter forward, fall back," which obviously doesn't quite work. Daylight saving time is not the real time. It's time to end it.

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