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Daylight Saving Time

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When you take a look at the history of daylight saving, we don’t really lose an hour of daylight in the fall, we merely “give back” the hour of daylight we stole to make our summer evenings longer.

The practice of daylight saving was first mooted in 1895 by British émigré to New Zealand, George Vernon Hudson.  Hudson was an avid collector of insects and realized that with an extra hour of daylight in summertime he could devote more time to his hobby after work.

It was not until 1916, however, that Germany became the first country to introduce the practice of altering the clocks, in order to preserve the use of coal during winter months.  Since then, many countries around the world have adopted a similar system, although countries around the equator mostly have not due to the small difference in daylight hours between seasons.

More recent studies in fuel economy have not endorsed Germany’s experiment, however.  Fuel usage patterns and industry have changed almost beyond recognition in the intervening century and it is hard to show that Daylight Saving Time has any effect whatever on energy consumption in today’s world.

The fact that the practice of Daylight Saving Time has continued for nearly a hundred years is proof enough of its advantages.  But what of the disadvantages of putting the clocks back once again during the fall?

In certain parts of the world, temperatures remain high after the clocks have been turned back.  Hotels and leisure industries which could otherwise have continued to thrive for another few weeks are forced to shut their doors for the ‘winter’ season.

The body, which needs a certain intake of vitamin D to remain healthy, derives much of that vitamin from sunlight.  When the sun isn’t shining, the body isn’t absorbing vitamin D.  There is also an argument that says depression is more prevalent when darkness abounds.  This type of depression is commonly labeled Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D.

Professor Susan Ferguson et al writing in the American Journal of Public Health in 1994 produced perhaps the most convincing argument for the retention of Daylight Saving Time by showing fatal accident statistics before and after the changeover date from Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time.

As with all statistics, those relating to Daylight Saving Time should be interpreted with a heavy dose of caution.

While it may be true, even obvious, that accidents will be more prevalent in darkness than in daylight, who can say that if there were no Daylight Saving Time the overall number of accidents would be different?  What is happening is merely that man is interfering with the natural movement of the Earth around the Sun and adjusting that useful medium he has called “time” in order to suit his own ends.

The amount of daylight during any one year will depend not on the clocks by which we live our daily lives, but on the weather, the movement of the planets – in short it will depend on nature.

As a footnote, between 27th October 1968 and 31 October 1971, Great Britain went on to an experimental system called British Standard Time, whereby the clocks were not put back as usual in the fall of 1968, nor advanced the following March but rather left on what had been known as British Summer Time for the entire period.  Although accidents in the morning increased during that time, the number of accidents decreased by a greater degree during the hours of daylight in the evening.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has constantly argued for a permanent reversion to British Standard Time, but has consistently been opposed by farmers and agricultural workers who would be forced to work long hours in darkness.

More about this author: Colin Morley

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