Tuesday, April 04, 2006

WTF is Daylight Savings About?

I know I'm a bit late on this, but it's still bugging me...I've been exhausted ever since Sunday. I've always wondered why we have Daylight Savings Time. If you ask most people, they say it's "because of the farmers." But actually that's not true.

The concept was originated by Benjamin Franklin in his humorous 1784 essay "An Economical Project." The idea was taken seriously and then advocated by William Willett in a pamplet entitled "Waste of Daylight." He was inspired when visiting a town, where he noticed many people's shades were drawn although the sun was shining outside. He proposed setting clocks ahead twenty minutes on four seperate Sundays in April. His idea introduced "British Summer Time" in 1916.

Energy-saving became big in the second World War. This time, clocks would be put ahead two hours in the summer, and it would be called "Double Summer Time." In the winter, the clocks would remain only one hour ahead throughout the winter war time.

1966 saw the Uniform Time Act put in to effect in the United States, establishing uniform summer and standard time settings. In 1986, legislation enforced the rules that we have now with every first April "springing forward" and every last Sunday in October "falling back."

So, you see, the farmers had nothing to do with it really. Most farmers oppose the idea, because the roosters don't realize there's a time change. It takes a rooster an average of 10 weeks to get synchronized with the new schedule. 70 days of listening to a rooster crow an hour off can be a little disconcerting.

The Pros
Okay, so it does save electricity. We go to bed earlier and therefore don't have our lights on as long as we would. According to sources, 25% of all the electricity we use is for lighting and small appliances, things we'd predominantly use when we get home from work. Studies done in the 1970's show that we cut our energy usage 1% each day during Daylight Saving time. That can add up to a lot of saved energy.

The Cons
It's easier to find opinions against DST than for, probably because negatives are a) more fun to talk about, and b) said more vocally. There is even a petition on the web to alter DST so that there are two permanent time zones, instead of four rotational ones. Can't tell you how it's going, though...

Some people say there are fewer accidents because of DST, but anyone who lives in the L.A. area can tell you that car accidents happen all times of the day, regardless of where the sun is shining. This cannot be a positive. I would think there are more accidents because people haven't adjusted well to the new schedule, thereby affecting their sleeping patterns.

The biggest complaint is that it's annoying to change your clocks back and forth, to remember what day it is that you do it. Or how embarassing it is to show up late for something because you forgot. Yes, that can be annoying. But so are a lot of things that we do in this country. Like paying taxes.

No, we didn't start DST because of the farmers, it really started to conserve energy during war times. So the question is, do we need to keep saving energy? Is the war that we are in now comparable to WWII and their energy crisis? Do we have to start having rubber and tin drives soon, too?

I'm not so sure. But neither side, for or against DST, has enough weight to sway me one way or the other. Except for the rooster thing. Now that would annoy me.

www.timeanddate.com - history, facts, pros
www.standardtime.com - petition and cons
www.energy.ca.gov/daylightsaving.html - "Saving Time, Saving Energy" - pros and history

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