Daylight Savings Time officially ends tonight, or rather early Sunday morning at 2:00 am. Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour to catch up on that hour of sleep you lost this past Spring!
History and Debates on DST
The main purpose of Daylight Saving Time (called “Summer Time” in many places in the world) is to make better use of daylight. We change our clocks during the summer months to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.
In a few countries DST has become a political power struggle, while others debate whether setting the clocks 1 hour ahead in the spring has the intended effect of conserving energy or reducing road accidents.
Ever since the very first time Daylight Saving Time (DST) was introduced in Germany in 1916, during World War I, people have disagreed about whether setting the clocks one hour forward in the spring and back again in the fall, has the desired effect.
More Natural Light
Over 70 countries use DST today, mainly to:
- Make better use of natural daylight.
- Conserve energy otherwise spent on artificial light.
- Decrease road accidents by making sure roads are naturally lit during the hours with most traffic.
- Boost tourism, claiming that the extra hour of sunlight makes people stay out later thus spending more money on activities like festivals, shopping and concerts.
Daylight Hours Vary
The argument of using DST to make better use of the natural daylight in the evenings, makes most sense in the areas furthest away from the Earth’s equator. This is where there is the biggest difference in the number of daylight hours in winter and summer. If you live near the equator, day and night are nearly the same length (12 hours) and these areas generally do not change their clocks.
Opposition and Obstacles
Many people intensely dislike Daylight Saving Time. Frequent complaints are the inconvenience of changing many clocks and adjusting to a new sleep schedule. For most people, this is a mere nuisance, but some people with sleep disorders find this transition very difficult. Indeed, there is evidence that the severity of auto accidents increases and work productivity decreases as people adjust to the time change.
Some argue that the energy savings touted by DST is offset by the energy used by those living in warm climates to cool their homes during summer afternoons and evenings. Similarly, the argument can be made that more evening hours of light encourage people to run errands and visit friends, thus consuming more gasoline.
Traditional dairy farmers often protest that changing the clocks one hour twice a year makes milking cows and getting the milk collected in time, a challenge. In more and more modern dairy farms, the cows are milked at will by robots and this argument becomes void. However, in developing countries the farmers are still an active part of the debate.
Protests are also put forth by people who wake at dawn, or whose schedules are otherwise tied to sunrise, such as farmers. Canadian poultry producer Marty Notenbomer notes, “The chickens do not adapt to the changed clock until several weeks have gone by, so the first week of April and the last week of October are very frustrating for us.”
Many parents express concern that Daylight Saving Time results in early morning dangers, as children are less visible as they cross roads and wait for school buses in the darkness.
Just as sunflowers turn their heads to catch every sunbeam,
so too have we discovered a simple way to get more from our sun.
To read more history about DST and the many debates surrounding it, visit: