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November 4, 2011

It's That Time Again | Daylight Slavings Time

“Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.” ~Wise Old Indian

It's that time again, this Sunday, November 6th, Daylight Savings time comes to its annual end.  Curiosity and the hunger for knowledge drove me to find out more about why we change our clocks twice a year.  The conclusion that I came to is that the history of time keeping is based on politics, capitalism, and ultimately, sun worship, and Daylight Savings time is a controversial Western creation without any proven benefit.

Go Orange!! - Russia may soon end DST
Daylight savings time was conceived of by one of the following people: 1) Benjamin Franklin in the 1780s;  2) New Zealand entomologist (study of insects), George Vernon Hudson; and/or English builder and outdoorsman William Willett

DST was first used on April 30, 1916 by Germany and its World War I allies as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year, and the United States adopted DST in 1918.  Since then, the world has seen many enactments, adjustments, and repeals relating to DST.

The history of time in the United States includes DST during both world wars, but no standardization of peacetime DST until the federal Uniform Time Act became law on April 13, 1966.  From 1945 to 1966, U.S. federal law did not address DST, and states and localities were free to observe DST or not.  Widespread confusion was created during that time, as each U.S. locality could start and end Daylight Saving Time as it desired. One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone.  For exactly five weeks each year, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were not on the same time as Washington D.C., Cleveland, or Baltimore, but Chicago was.  And, on one Ohio to West Virginia bus route, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles.  The situation led to millions of dollars in costs to several industries, especially those involving transportation and communications. Extra railroad timetables alone cost today's equivalent of over $12 million per year.

The 1966 Act was not the end of tinkering with DST.  In 1973 daylight saving time was observed all year, instead of just the spring and summer. The previous system of beginning DST at 2 AM on the first Sunday in April and ending it at 2 AM on the last Sunday in October was not standardized until 1986. To this day, Hawaii and Arizona choose not to participate in DST. 

Why participate in DST?  Historically, retailing, sports and tourism interests have favored daylight saving, while agricultural and evening entertainment interests have opposed it, and its initial adoption was prompted by energy crisis and war.  The most repeated reasons for maintaining DST are increasing opportunity for outdoor leisure time in afternoon hours during the summer months, energy conservation, increasing economic benefits for retailers, reducing traffic accidents, and to improve the physical and mental health of people.

For most people, except those living in close proximity to time zone boundaries, Daylight Savings Time is unnecessary.  Evidence shows that there is no discernible savings in energy, little impact on public safety, and a negative impact on economic activity except for a few industries like convenience stores, golf courses and some retailers.  At best, it can be said that there are as many negative effects as positive effects.  

So why, starting in 2007, did most of the United States and Canada lengthen the observation of DST to the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, almost two-thirds of the year?  The 2007 U.S. change was based on flawed research on energy savings and was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  Previously, from 1987 through 2006, the start and end dates of DST were the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October.  Congress did make sure to retain the right to go back to the previous dates now that an energy-consumption study has been done.

I believe that the continuance of Daylight savings time by western societies is based primarily on mental manipulation purposes and argue that the goal is the maintenance of designed routine to assist in the psychological control over the masses.   Daylight Savings is a freedom-given/freedom-taken cycle that is systematically timed to go along with our organized schedule of holidays and seasons, as to promote devoted productivity in the Fall/Winter while giving the worker bees the illusion of increased leisure time during the Spring/Summer.

If we are saving energy and providing other benefits, let's go year round with Daylight Saving Time, as its nice to have more hours of sun exposure in the American "workday."  If we are not saving energy or benefiting the masses, let's drop Daylight Saving Time altogether.  Personally, I prefer DST all year around, as I think that the reversal of DST is a reason that so many get Seasonal Affective Disorder.  In reality, things would be nicer without time keeping and scheduling, wouldn't it?

Check out the video below where Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being, and describes how time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.

"I don't mind going back to daylight saving time. With inflation, the hour will be the only thing I've saved all year." ~Victor Borge