Today, I woke up at 6:30 AM. The sun hadn’t risen yet. It was quite nice to watch the sun pop over the horizon over a cup of hot chocolate. I will have to gulp my hot drink down come Sunday, for on November 6 at 2 a.m., Daylight Saving Time ends in the United States. Now, I’m not going to complain about getting an extra hour of sleep this weekend. Trust. But, really, is messing up our sleep schedules twice a year really worth it? Let’s explore why we do this to ourselves anyway…
Who was the bozo who first recommended that time should artificially “change” anyway? Benjamin Franklin, of course… of the “Early to Bed, Early to Rise” fame. In Paris, he wrote an article proposing to invent Daylight Savings time in order to conserve candles. However, if you look at the actual paper itself, Franklin actually was satirizing the partying lifestyle of Parisians, and it was not a serious recommendation. (He also proposed firing cannons at sunrise to wake people up, which Thank DOG, never took off here. Except if you live near Arlington Cemetery, where a lone bugle player blasts Reveille every day over the loudspeakers at 6:30AM JUST in time to shatter my amazing dreams. Hmmmm… another reason for me to move.)
Daylight saving time began in the United States during World War I, primarily to save fuel by reducing the need to use artificial lighting. Although some states and communities observed daylight saving time between the wars, it was not observed nationally again until World War II.
So now, WWII is over. Why do we still observe it?
One is safety. By providing for additional sunlit leisure time after work, the shorter days would force morning activities (like children walking to school) to happen while it was still dark. But instead of kids walking to school in the dark in the morning, they now get to walk home in the dark.
Some people believe that if we have more daylight at the end of the day, we will have fewer traffic accidents. Well, great. Studies suggest that when the clocks change, we have more accidents during daylight savings time due to of lack of sleep; and during standard time because of less light in the morning. We don’t win here.
What about electricity consumption, another pro-argument for switching our clocks twice a year? This line of reasoning is also stupid: instead of consuming electricity/heating/air conditioning in the morning, we use it in the evening (and vice versa). In fact, during daylight savings time, we drive MORE (using gas, of course) because we are out and about during the evening hours. (More on that below.)
And let’s not forget about the poor farmers. Every proponent for Daylight Savings Time throws our food growers in our face. Apparently, farmers need daylight savings time so that they’ll have more light to work the fields during the hot summer days. Except that they hate it probably more than we do. Animals and crops don’t know what time it is – they expect to be fed at their “normal” feeding time. (On a related note, does anyone know cat-ese? Please explain to my cat why she will have to wait one extra hour to be fed on Sunday. I’m gonna be miserable for the next couple of days…) So… changing the clocks twice a year puts undue stress on our livestock and crops. Additionally, farmers have to start working at dayrise anyway. Artificially manipulating time doesn’t change that fact. Now they get to wake up earlier too! Yay!
And for everybody that LOVES the extra sun in the morning during standard time: sit the f- down. I will find an equal number of people who love the sun shining on them in the evening.
But somebody does truly benefit from Daylight Saving Time. And they are our friendly retailers. As I mentioned above, during the warm summer months people like to be out and about in the evening. When we go out, WE SPEND MONEY! In 1986, when an extra month of daylight savings was debated in Congress, merchants and recreational groups lobbied our public servants hard and appeared in front of Congress to testify about the effect it had on their bottom lines. Unsurprisingly, the bill passed. The golf industry is said to have benefited by an additional $200 million, just from that one additional month; and the barbecue industry is said to have sold an additional $100 million in barbecues and charcoal briquettes. The additional extension in 2007 into November was supported strongly by the candy industry, who can sell a lot more Halloween candy when kids can spend an extra hour trick or treating before bedtime. So yay Capitalism!
In the end, in trying to mess with Mother Nature, she bites back. Hard. So take care of yourselves. Be sure to set your clocks back one hour on Sunday (unless you live in Arizona, Hawaii or on an Indian Reservation), and be on time for work Monday, okay? And ya’ll be sure to change your smoke detector’s batteries too. I am nothing if not helpful.