Daylight Saving Time
Amid the chaos and concern from the 2020 election and the current pandemic, the end of daylight saving time seems like just another complication that’s piled onto the mess that is 2020. However, this year might be the beginning of the end of switching clocks, as more and more countries are abandoning the custom.
This practice of setting the clocks forward every spring stared as a method of conserving energy and artificial light. In 1916, Germany was the first country to implement daylight saving time on a national scale to save energy during World War I. Contrary to many myths, daylight saving time actually has nothing with helping farmers gain more time to work in the morning. In fact, farmers are generally opposed to daylight saving because it takes away valuable light in the early morning that they need for farm work.
Critics of daylight saving point to the fact that switching the clocks biannually wreaks havoc on our circadian rhythm, which is the system that regulates our internal clocks. Although this effect is temporary, it is a minor public health risk as it leads to an increased risk of heart attack and accidents caused by the morning mental fog.
However, there are also many benefits to extended daylight in the evenings. There is a decreased risk of car accidents during the lighter hours, so it is safer to drive at ordinarily nighttime hours.. Additionally, increased light in the evenings can be a motivator to get people to exercise and spend time outdoors. Furthermore, for those with seasonal depression during winter months, daylight saving and the lighter months are a much happier time.
Many industries and businesses also advocate for keeping the practice of daylight saving. The golf industry, for instance, is one of the most vocal supporters of lighter evenings, as people don’t play golf in the afternoons when it’s dark out by 5:00. These effects are most felt by people far from the equator. Because of the Earth’s tilt, the farther from the equator, the greater the discrepancy between the number of light and dark hours, and so the effects of daylight saving time become more noticeable. Due to this phenomenon, many of the countries that still use daylight saving time are located far from the equator.
Many countries believe that the negative side effects of daylight saving outweigh the positives and have subsequently switched back to standard time, which is the winter setting. For example, the European Union is currently trying to end DST, and it will probably be removed by 2021. Other places, however, are trying to avoid switching clocks by permanently moving the clocks forward. Currently, California, Washington, Oregon, and Florida are trying to pass laws to permanently remain on daylight saving time.
In the US, this issue is a little more complicated as Daylight Saving Time was first approved by Congress in 1918. That law allows states to opt out of DST, which Hawaii and Arizona do, but it does not currently allow states to permanently use DST. In order for states to remain indefinitely on DST, the Uniform Time Act would have to be amended. So far, Congress has not demonstrated any inclination to do so.
There are many groups of people invested and involved in the controversy surrounding daylight saving time. Although switching the clocks twice a year is no longer offers many of the benefits it once did, there are both advantages and drawbacks of permanently having clocks either an hour ahead or an hour behind. Although the decision regarding DST will affect all of us, the industries with lobbying power will probably have the biggest say in the matter. At the end of the day (pun intended), the most we can do right now is just enjoy the extra hour of sleep.