Waking up at my usual time this morning to the sun shining in my face, instead of darkness, brought the subject of Daylight Savings Time to my thoughts once again. I wrote three blogs, virtually in succession, last year on the topic. I suggested that the time has come to abolish the idea since it really hasn’t achieved the purposes for which it was originally proposed by George Hudson in New Zealand in 1898. In 2019, the European Parliament passed a law abolishing daylight savings time (DST), permanently. It was left up to the individual countries to decide whether they wanted to choose standard time or summer time. COVID 19 delayed implementation until 2022. We are now in 2022, so it is time to revisit the topic.
The origins of Daylight Savings Time are interesting. George Hudson, who first proposed the idea wanted more after-working-hours of daylight to indulge his passion of collecting insects. William Willett, who independently conceived of the same idea in 1905 wanted more time in the evenings to finish his rounds of golf. The German Empire and the Austrian-Hungarian Empires organized the first nationwide implementation of Daylight Savings Time, starting on April 30, 1916. The U.S. also did it in 1916 as part of its World War I industrial effort.
Interestingly enough, ancient civilizations adjusted daily schedules to the sun far more flexibly than Daylight Savings Time does. They often divided daylight into 12 hours regardless of how long daylight lasted. That meant that each daylight hour became progressively longer during spring and shorter during autumn. The Romans, for example, kept time with water clocks that had different scales for different months of the year. At Rome’s latitude, the third hour from sunrise started at 09:02, and lasted 44 minutes at the winter solstice, but at the summer solstice it started at 06:58 and lasted 75 minutes. Confusing to us, maybe, but no more so than Daylight Savings Time.
Daylight Savings Time is generally not observed near the equator, where sunrise and sunset times do not vary enough to justify it. Some countries observe it only in some regions; for example, parts of Australia observe it, while other parts do not, and the United States observes it, except for Arizona and Hawaii, which do not. Navajo Tribal lands, within Arizona, conform to DST. In fact, only a minority of the world’s population uses DST. For example, Asia and Africa generally do not observe it at all. DST clock shifts sometimes complicate timekeeping and can disrupt travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment, and human sleep patterns. Computer software generally adjusts clocks automatically.
On a lighter note, Benjamin Franklin, published a letter in the Journal de Paris during his time as an American envoy to France (1776–1785), suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. This letter proposed taxing window shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise. I’m sure that made him very popular in Paris, even though he thought it was funny.
Even more ridiculous, in the 1980’s both U.S. Senators from Idaho, voted for Daylight Savings Time based on the premise that fast-food restaurants sell more French fries (made from Idaho potatoes) during DST.
Messing with time usually creates more problems than it solves. If you look at the differences across borders, and even within borders, it’s a miracle anything arrives on time during the various transitions from standard time to daylight saving time and back. It also contributed to the decline in my mental state by waking me up an hour earlier by having the sun shining in my face.
Let’s hope the European Parliament follows through with abolishing Daylight Savings Time, and that the rest of the world follows quickly. The World’s mental health is at stake, not to mention mine. I just hope they don’t let each country in Europe choose which standard they will use. Imagine the chaos every time you cross a border….and that will be all year round.