Daylight saving part of culture
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