Sunday, March 10, 2013

Daylight Saving Time

Some Thoughts On Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST) intrudes upon our lives in many ways. And whether we like it or not, as with the weather, we can do nothing about it.

While many people credit Benjamin Franklin (indeed, I once believed this) with first devising DST, Franklin had nothing to do with it. Instead, the dubious honor goes to Englishman William Willett, who in 1907, proposed pushing clocks ahead one hour. Willett was a golfer and the extra hour of daylight would give him more time on the links. Talk about vested interests.

Willet’s idea did not fly, at least not immediately. But when World War I broke out, a number of countries, including the United States, embraced the time change for the sake of saving energy and also to give people more time to plant and maintain vegetable gardens. After the war, DST was dropped and re-adopted and dropped and then reinstated during World War II. Then in 1966, Congress declared it official and we have had it ever since.

Since then, the onset of DST has slowly inched forward. It seems to me that in my youth, DST began the last Saturday in April. Then at some point, as I recall, or should I say unless lack of sleep has made my memory faulty, it was moved to late March. Now it has moved forward to the second Sunday in March. Where will it stop? We have only 24 hours in a day and if left unchecked, these periodic extensions will begin where we left off. I’m only half kidding here.

Sleep is a dear commodity, one that many people go to lengths to acquire. Not everyone sleeps well. As one who suffers occasional bouts with insomnia, I can attest that lost sleep causes much discomfort. And when changes, even small ones, occur to our established sleep patterns, it can cause great physical damage. Anything that upsets our natural biological rhythms has the potential to make us sick, perhaps very sick. And DST certainly upsets our biological rhythms.

And what about the supposed energy savings? Well, according to a blog by Kelly Beatty, the Department of Energy conducted an analysis of the cost-saving effects of booting DST ahead to early March. Their conclusion? “There might be an energy saving of 0.5 percent.” Note the word, “might.”

Furthermore, a University of California study found that when Indiana (a lingering DST holdout) adopted DST in 2006, their electricity bills immediately rose about 1 percent. And by late summer, that figure rose by 4 percent. That’s right. I said “rose,” not “dropped.”

So in this case and in fact, more than likely most cases, DST costs us energy.

Finally, according to Swedish scientists, besides disrupting our sleep patterns and making us tired, cranky and inefficient, DST may contribute to heart failure. DST causes increased risk of heart attacks.

Like its founder, Willett, I have a vested interest that has to do with DST. I am an amateur astronomer and since darkness now comes one hour later, it means staying up one hour later in order to observe the heavens. In summer, when full darkness doesn’t set in until well after 9 p.m., I often fall asleep before I can set up my telescope.

But it’s the sleep disruption that I dislike the most. I’ve tried ignoring DST, not setting my clocks ahead. But living a time-oriented society, this does not work very well. In the end, we all must conform to DST.

Maybe some day things will change. But don’t look for it anytime soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment