Monday, March 19, 2012

Daylight Saving Time (DST) – Do we need it?

I am sure I am not the only one who gets confused by the idea of Daylight Saving Time (DST)   and wondered what is the purpose of changing the clock twice a year?  When I found out that on this day, March 19, 2012, in 1918, Daylight Saving Time (DST) was first put into law, I determined to learn more about its origin and purpose.

To my greatest surprise, it was not to benefit the farmers with extra hours for their outdoor activities.  Some people suggest that it was implemented by the politicians for greater voter turnout during election.  Others say that it helps the children being save and have the extra hour for trick-or-treat.  You may be surprised as I was when I found out that DST was first put into practice during WWI for the benefit of saving energy.  Over the years it was revised several times by congress.

What is Daylight Saving Time (DST)?

To lessen the confusion what to do when, people coined the phrase “Spring forward, Fall back.”  Now, we are turning the clock on hour forward at 2 a.m. on the 2nd Sunday in March.  The “Fall back” means we are turning the clock one hour back at 2 a.m. on the 1st Sunday of November which means we are returning to Standard Time.

Why do we have Daylight Saving Time (DST)?
Way back in 1784, Benjamin Franklin thought of the idea of saving daylight.  Ben Franklin swore by the “early to bed and early to rise” habits. He thought that people should not burn candles at night and still sleep past dawn in the summer.

Not until 1916 did all the allies of WWI adopted the clock-change in order to conserve coal, even though the United States did not adopt the practice until 1918. The theory is that by using daylight saves both fuel and energy. 
That might have been the case in the early 20th century but records show that with the use of air conditioning during the hot summer month we actually use more energy.  Some health experts also have evidence that because of the one hour time change more accidents happen at the work place and some people are prone to heart attacks and anxiety because the change interrupts workers' sleep cycles.

When was Daylight Saving Time first started? – History of DST
1784 – Ben Franklin had the idea of saving daylight
1916 - Germany started the use of DST and other European countries followed suit.
1918 – March 19th, DST implemented by the Standard Time Act of 1918

1966 – Congress passed the Uniform Time Act 1966
1973/74 - The importance of this practice was reinforced in 1973-74 during the OPEC oil embargo (in America, it was actually extended by two months due to the crisis).
2007 – Passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 hoped to save thousand of barrels of oil each day which extended the summer time 4 more weeks which means we “spring forward" on the 2nd Sunday of March and "fall back" on the 1st Sunday of November.

The question remains, do we really benefit from DST?  Since the practice of the change of time is not world-wide and countries closer to the equator don’t profit anyway (their days and nights are closer to the 12 hour mark), it will be a matter of personal preference.  One thing is for sure, you cannot fool the body.  By the circadian rhythm the body does not care what time it is on the clock.  It is the same as when we experience jet lag when we travel beyond our own time zone.  It takes some adjustment.
Whatever we humans do with the clocks or time changes, it does not affect the amount of daylight we have in a day; as long as we stay in our longitude.

To conclude my observation on the purpose of Daylight Saving Time, here are 12 more things you might not know about DST.

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