Energy & Environment
Daylight Saving Time: Have We Outgrown the Need?
Daylight Saving Time. It’s become a ubiquitous practice twice a year. Whether it’s fall back, or spring forward, we all dutifully reset our clocks twice a year. Obviously, Daylights Saving Time (DST) is an old practice designed to keep our schedules pinned to the most daylight hours possible. However, with the advent of modern technology that lets us keep our lights on way later than the sun and rise whenever we want, it’s easy to wonder why DST has remained such a staunch tradition. Read on to learn about the history of DST, the argument to keep it around, and the views of those who think its an outdated practice.
The History of Daylight Saving Time
According to Daylight Saving Time (DST) history, Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest the idea in 1784. However, modern DST was not proposed until 1895 and finally gained attention in 1905, after William Willet presented the idea in the House of Commons in the UK. The idea was eventually implemented and adopted in 1916 post World War I. The main concept behind adopting DST was to replace artificial lighting with daylight and was mainly done to save fuel for the war. In the past, DST has been known to cause widespread confusion in the transportation and broadcasting industries in the United States. Congress finally stepped in and implemented the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which stated that DST begins last Sunday of April and end last Sunday of October.
DST now is implemented in over seventy countries worldwide and affects over a billion people each year. Most countries have their own set DST start and end dates. The current DST schedule in the United States began in 2007 and follows the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the period by a month. Today, most of the US observes DST except for Hawaii and most of Arizona, and US insular areas of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam.
What’s the argument for getting rid of DST?
DST has been part of a number of recent debates on energy savings; most scientists/researchers have found that the advent of technology has voided the initial energy saving function of DST. Although some money may by saved by not having to pay for lighting during the times when DST means we’re awake for more of the day, we lose that money in other ways. For example, research conducted in Indiana shows that the energy saving effects of DST were made negligible by the fact that people had to use air conditioning more in early evenings in the summer before things had cooled down. DST also costs airlines money, because we’re not properly synced up with Europe, to the tune of about $147 million a year in travel disruptions. Although there could be some money saved by DST, for the most part it’s not enough to make the system worth it.
Academicians argue that the increasing production of electricity, groundbreaking technology with the ability to create the intensity of daylight and the ability to work remotely defeats the purpose behind Daylight Saving. Furthermore, the National Geographic created a piece in which the concept of DST was discussed in much depth. The report says, that Tufts University professor Michael Downing and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time said, “the whole proposition that you can gain or lose an hour is at best, theoretical”.
In the United States, reports related to effects of DST have suggested a rather antagonistic situation. According to a study conducted by Chmura Economics and Analytics, the sudden forward bump has cost the U.S. economy a total of $433,982,548. The research conducted by the above institute has shown that most of this cost is attributed to the decrease in overall human productivity. It claims that DST disrupts the biological clock and causes an increase in road accidents, heart attacks, workplace related injuries, especially in mining and construction business. The change twice a year does throw off our circadian rhythms, and especially affects those who have any sort of sleep disorder.
What’s the argument for keeping DST?
However, DST still remains a much-debated topic around the world. Russia abolished DST in 2011, but the inhabitants of the nation greatly dislike dark mornings. This issue has been so widely discussed, that a coalition in the nation’s Duma has proposed legislation to reestablish the practice by the end of this year. Japan, on the other hand, has not observed DST in over 60 years and few politicians strongly feel that returning to this practice can solve the nations post-Fukushima energy crisis. Brazil also holds conflicting views about this practice. The major cities of Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio De Janerio observe DST and have claimed to save over 200 USD in a year.
Special interests also weigh in. The retail industry, for example, is a big fan of DST. When it’s light out longer, people are more willing to go out shopping in the early evening. Similarly, TV networks have mixed feelings on DST, because when it’s lighter out longer people are less likely to surf TV channels.
DST’s original purpose made a lot of sense. But at this point, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that it may no longer be worth the hassle. Our improved technological capabilities make it less essential that we organize our days around sunlight. Arguments against DST include that it doesn’t really save money, and creates more problems than good by disrupting schedules. Those who support DST like the convenience that it creates. Overall, whether or not DST survives will probably end up being a matter of convenience.