I’m in the haze, the funk, the unshakeable drowsiness that follows you after daylight savings time. So far two Zing Blog writers, that will remain nameless, have arrived late from oversleeping. I, too, stumbled after springing forward an hour; after my three cell phone alarms went off I woke up a half an hour before I needed to get into work. It’s not entirely the fault of my poor sleeping habits; it mostly has to do with the springing forward an hour I had to do on Sunday with daylight savings time.
We’re all used to it by now. As a kid I would rejoice on the weekend I would get a whole extra hour to sleep before school, and then whine with force come March when we would lose an hour. Don’t these people know how hard it is to stay awake in class in the first place? Like my middle school self, many people question the necessity of daylight savings in the modern world. We’re all responsible people, can’t we figure out how to run half of the year if there wasn’t a time adjustment pushing us along? This debate, and the strange intricacies of daylight savings time, cannot be settled easily. You’d be ill informed just to pick a side of this debate without considering all the factors, starting with…
The History of Daylight Savings
While daylight savings is a relatively new thing in the span of human history, people had kicked around different twists on the idea for a long time. Romans had water clocks that adjusted per month to adjust for different day lengths. Despite what a National Treasure movie might tell you, Ben Franklin did not invent DST (or electricity for that matter) but he was a big pusher for being productive with the time you have. He’s responsible for the quote “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and wrote a satirical paper about how the French could tax shutters and wake up from the sunrise, or rationing candles among other things.
The first person to propose DST was an entomologist from New Zealand named George Vernon Hudson, who wanted to capitalize on all the sunlight he missed during his bug catching ventures. In 1895-98 it picked up some steam, and he wrote a (later published) paper on the topic. The idea got even more momentum when a second person, English outdoorsmen William Willet, also thought of the idea without ever knowing of George Vernon Hudson. He wanted the time change because he was upset with how his fellow countrymen were wasting the days away, and he wanted more time to golf in the summer evenings. He got this idea proposed in British Parliament, but it didn’t get taken seriously until after he died. There were other prominent times DST was pushed after this, but mostly in Western culture, which leads me to my next point…
Non Western Cultures usually don’t follow daylight savings time
North America, Europe, and seemingly random countries throughout the world are the only ones to still practice DST religiously. Almost all of Asia, Australia, and South America have dropped the practice and most of Africa never did it in the first place. In fact, since Willet got his idea proposed back in the day there have been staunch supporters and naysayers on the topic. Winston Churchill liked it because he believed it improved the wellbeing of the people, but Prime Minister H.H. Asquith opposed it. Certain fields of business inherently opposed it, like farmers or theater owners because less daylight makes their job harder. Which leads us to a vital part of the debate…
The Pros and Cons of daylight savings time
The mere hour our culture adjusts affect more than one would think at first glance. For the longest time, pro DST people would argue with more sunlight we use less electricity, but there have been so many studies slightly proving and then disproving it the argument for that is virtually moot. Forbes estimated in a 1984 article that adding seven weeks to DST would give 7-Eleven convenience stores an additional $30 million. But for every industry that would improve with more sunlight (golf courses, retail stores) there are others that suffer. Farmers generally hate the idea of DST because their work tends to happen at dawn, so changing when dawn occurs is bad for them. Theaters don’t like losing the hour because people are less likely to venture out to a show when it’s dark out. The debate gets ridiculous (but still factually grounded) from there: we’re messing with the economy and our social lives having the time adjustment; there are less traffic accidents during DST; more sunlight will boost the vitamin D your body needs but increases your likelihood of skin cancer.
At the end of three cups of coffee and an unexpectedly overwhelming amount of DST facts, there are valid reasons to love or loath the practice. It may very well be a tradition for tradition’s sake, but its bi-yearly presence hardly makes it something to make a big stink about. So, where do you stand on the daylight savings time debate? Comment below!