Day­light sav­ing part of cul­ture

The Chatham Daily News - - OPINION - MIKE JIGGENS

Just over a week ago, we “fell back” an hour to ob­serve the end of day­light sav­ing time for an­other five months. It’s the one time of the year when we can sleep in an ex­tra hour and not feel guilty about it.

Un­for­tu­nately, it also ush­ered in that pe­riod of win­ter gloom when, for the next cou­ple of months, it will al­ready be dark by the end of the typ­i­cal work­day. Oh, the pain we must suf­fer to en­joy the ben­e­fits of day­light sav­ing time in the spring, sum­mer and early fall.

Lo­cal res­i­dents will soon be string­ing up their Christ­mas lights to cel­e­brate the fes­tive sea­son. That will at least add some tem­po­rary colour and lu­mi­nes­cence to the land­scape to help get us through the first cou­ple months of this an­nual pe­riod of gloom. On the up side, by the time 2018 ar­rives, the days will start to get a lit­tle longer.

So why do we set our clocks back­ward an hour each fall and then move them for­ward an hour in the early spring? The idea is to cap­ture as much day­light as pos­si­ble dur­ing the seven months of day­light sav­ing time – when the amount of sun­light is at its max­i­mum – so that we can re­duce our de­pen­dency on ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing, thereby sav­ing money and en­ergy.

On pa­per it makes per­fect sense. In­ter­est­ingly, how­ever, a re­cent study con­ducted by the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion found that day­light sav­ing time re­duced the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity us­age by a mere one per cent. Mean­while, an­other study by the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Santa Bar­bara found that en­ergy con­sump­tion ac­tu­ally in­creases be­tween one and four per cent dur­ing the pe­riod of day­light sav­ing time.

It’s also ar­gued that day­light sav­ing time pro­motes phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal health, re­duces crime and min­i­mizes the num­ber of traf­fic ac­ci­dents. Op­po­nents of day­light sav­ing time, how­ever, claim it in­creases the risk of heart at­tack and cre­ates a dis­rup­tion to peo­ple’s so­cial lives, in­clud­ing hav­ing to leave for and re­turn home from school and work in the dark.

So, is it really worth it to ob­serve day­light sav­ing time? There are some parts of Canada that can’t be both­ered with the yearly rit­ual of “fall­ing back” and “spring­ing for­ward.” Most of Saskatchewan is essen­tially locked in per­pet­ual day­light sav­ing time the en­tire year, ob­serv­ing cen­tral time 12 months of the year while be­ing geo­graph­i­cally sit­u­ated in the moun­tain time zone. There are re­gions of Bri­tish Columbia, Que­bec and Nu­navut that don’t ob­serve day­light sav­ing time. In the United States, nei­ther Ari­zona – save for a Na­tive Amer­i­can reser­va­tion – nor Hawaii adopts day­light sav­ing time.

Ger­many was the first coun­try to ob­serve day­light sav­ing time. Even to­day, not all coun­tries ob­serve day­light sav­ing time and many of those that do are not in sync with one an­other, set­ting their start and fin­ish dates weeks apart in some cases.

And why is 2 a.m. the of­fi­cial time of day for day­light sav­ings time to start and end? The an­swer is some­what con­vo­luted and takes into con­sid­er­a­tion shift work­ers’ start­ing times, clos­ing hours for bars and restau­rants and not hav­ing to switch back to “yes­ter­day” if mid­night had been cho­sen as the of­fi­cial hour of ob­ser­va­tion.

Day­light sav­ing time has its pros and cons, but it has be­come wo­ven into the fab­ric of our cul­ture as much as Christ­mas, hockey sea­son and Ground­hog Day. Let’s just live with it. Mike Jiggens is a Delhi res­i­dent

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