Yes, I realize that the day to set clocks an hour forward for Daylight Savings Time has already happened in the US. On March 8th, I set my watches and the clocks that aren’t controlled by radio signals. If you’re one of my European readers, you still have until the 29th to wait. Even if you live in Asia or the areas in the US that Daylight Savings Time (DST) isn’t used, you might still be interested in this peculiar western practice.
Time is an interesting concept; one that we moderns use as a daily template for our activities. That’s why any alteration or tampering with timekeeping is such a social and personal act. Most of my friends and acquaintances dislike DST. I understand their grief, but I don’t have any major problems with it. I’m an early riser and enjoy the luxury of awakening according to the rhythms of my biological clock. In addition, I use UTC to schedule many of my important activities. (UTC or Universal Time Coordinated is not regulated by DST)
I dislike the design flaws of modern electronic clocks, and the fact that clocks are ubiquitous to modern appliances. There is no standard mechanism for setting digital clocks nor their radio controlled cousins. I have a folder on my PC that contains the instruction documents for several digital clocks and wristwatches. Many of them are difficult to decipher. When it’s time to change batteries or to reset the clocks for DST and back to standard time, I have to research instruction documents.
The old-fashioned analogue clocks are so much better; they set with a simple twist of a small knob. I’ve never had to do a Web search to try to figure out how to set any old-tech analogue clocks.
There is a growing segment of the population that argues that any energy savings yielded by DST are offset by the energy used to cool our homes during the long summer afternoons and evenings. Also, the leftover daylight of the evenings encourages us to use our cars to visit friends and run errands.
There are many practical objections to DST; some of them are quite serious. I’ve heard complaints from parents that DST causes early morning worries about their children. Kids are at risk as they cross streets or wait for school buses in the darkness. There also is an increased risk of traffic accidents around the date of time-change. Many of us are sleepier and grumpier until our bodies adjust to the time shift.
Some of my friends are farmers. They don’t like it, because their livestock animals don’t abide by DST. A few of those friends have taken my advice and now utilize UTC to schedule their chores. They continue to use regular DST and standard time for their business, social, and broadcast consumption requirements. A person can set one or two cheap clocks to UTC/GMT for easy viewing.
Another complaint, people express, is that the dates for setting clocks ahead and backwards are difficult to remember. The dates have been changed a few times and seem quite arbitrary. We have to endure the twice yearly reminders and news stories about DST. Newscasters and disc jockies sometimes try to be clever about DST reminders, but they usually fall flat. If there must be DST adjustments, all we ask is that they be consistent and not subject to the whims of Congress or bureaucratic committees.
Meantime, according to a US Transportation Department poll, those of us who like DST say that we like it because there is more light in the evenings. The same holds true for many Australians, who use DST during their summers. If you live in the tropics or work near either polar region, there is no real need to change clocks. Some bases on Antarctica utilize DST in order to synchronize shipping and communications schedules with their home nations.
Some form of daylight savings time is used in over 70 nations. It was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin. He first advocated it as an energy saving practice in 1784. Nobody officially used DST until Germany legislated its use in 1916. Not to be outdone, the US passed the Standard Time Act on March 19, 1918. It instituted “fast time”. The act was repealed the next year, though. President Franklin Roosevelt reinstated DST as “War Time” with the onset of the second World War and kept it in force until the war’s end in 1945.
After the war, whether or not to practice DST was left up to states and localities. The resulting mish-mash was confusing for railroads, trucking firms, bus lines, airlines, and broadcasters. Various towns and localities began and ended DST as they wished. This made a mockery of the idea of standard time. So, in 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed to standardise DST rules once again. Later, Congress also decreed that DST would temporarily begin on February 23rd, in 1974, due to the severity of the energy crisis and Arab oil embargo.
It looks like the DST concept will remain controversial for at least the next several years. That is if or until some sort of new manner of keeping track of global time is made consistent. I hope that UTC will be the framework for our ever-developing worldwide civilization. I also hope that a simple, industry-wide standard will come about so we won’t need instruction sheets to set our clocks every time batteries need to be replaced or DST must be set.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that while the state of Arizona does not implement DST, the Navajo Nation which includes part of Arizona does use DST. The Hopi Reservation does not use DST. That means that a roughly donut-shaped portion of Arizona does use DST, but the “donut hole” does not.