Sunday, March 13, 2011

Daylight Slaving Time: It’s All About the Money

TN_cr_man_clockAIt's that time of year again...time for my semi-annual Rant and Rave about DST, or as I so affectionately call it, Dumb Stupid Time. This year, I decided to do a little research on the origins and effects of this asinine practice. I learned a few things and was surprised by some others. Read on, then share your opinion on DST by leaving a comment below.

Growing up in Indiana, we never participated in DST (at least not in my lifetime). It still affected every day life, however. The TV shows you were used to were on at a different time. If you went to Michigan in the summer, you had to remember they were an hour ahead…at least, if you had to be somewhere at a specific time.

It was commonly accepted that the reason for DST was because the farmers needed more daylight to get the harvest in and that Benjamin Franklin was the genius who started it. Looking into the matter, I discovered that what I’d always believed about DST was completely wrong.

A Bit of History

Ancient civilizations adjusted their daily schedules along with the sun, but with more flexibility than DST affords. Daylight was divided into twelve hours regardless of the length of the day, so each daylight hour was longer in the summer. Roman water clocks had different scales for different months of the year.
Benjamin Franklin did not start DST at all. He “anonymously published a letter suggesting that Parisians economize on candles by rising earlier to use morning sunlight. This 1784 satire proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise.” It wasn’t too popular back then, either.

Modern DST was first proposed in 1895 when George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist, presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two hour daylight saving shift and again in 1898 after much interest was expressed. Apparently, we can thank his leisure time activities of collecting bugs, which made him appreciate the value of after-hours daylight. Great, I have to lose an hour of sleep because of a bug collector. That really bugs me.

Many people erroneously credit William Willet, who was an English builder, for coming up with the idea for DST. He did independently come up with that crazy idea, but not until 1905. He published his proposal to bump the clocks ahead in the summertime two years later, which was taken up by LIBERAL member of Parliament, Robert Pearce and who introduced the first DST bill to the House of Commons in 1908. It did not become law, and several other similar bills failed in the years to come, but Willet lobbied for DST until his death in 1915.

In 1916, Germany first began to implement DST to conserve coal during the war. Many other European nations hopped on the DST bandwagon soon after, with Russia adopting it in 1917 and the United States in 1918. Congress repealed DST in 1919, but it was observed again during WWII, again to save energy.
Even after the war, farmers still did not like DST because it actually adversely affects farming - “grain harvesting is best done after dew evaporates, so when field hands arrive and leave earlier in summer their labor is less valuable.” Minnesota farmers complained in 1959 that they can’t get into the fields any earlier than when standard time is observed because the morning sun does not dry the dew under DST (Minneapolis Star, Jan 28, 1959.)

Between WWII and 1966, when the federal Uniform Time Act became law, observance of DST was left up to states and localities.  Of course, this created a confusing “patchwork” of times, hence the passing of the UTA. States that wished to be exempt from observing DST could do so by passing a state law.

But It’s the Green Way to Keep Time, Right?

There are a lot of claims to “energy savings” during DST, but does the research actually back it up? Let’s take a look…
  • In 1975, a DOT study concluded that an energy savings of 1% was likely. A review of the study by the NBS in 1976 showed no significant changes.
  • A 2006-07 Western Australia study showed an over all increase in energy consumption of .06% – DST caused an increase of energy consumption in the hotter days and a decrease in the cooler days.
  • (Here’s my favorite…) “A 2008 study examined billing data in Indiana before and after it adopted DST in 2006, and concluded that DST increased overall residential electricity consumption by 1% to 4%, due mostly to extra afternoon cooling and extra morning heating; the main increases came in the fall. The overall annual cost of DST to Indiana households was estimated to be $9 million, with an additional $1.7–5.5 million for social costs due to increased pollution.” Terrific job, Mitch…thanks a lot…

And what about the brilliant idea in 2007 of extending DST another four to five weeks, moving the start of DST up two weeks? A California study in 2007 showed little or no effect. In fact, while the DOE concluded in 2008 that there was an energy savings of .5%, that was ONLY for the electricity used during the extended period, not the entire eight months of DST and did not include a study of the use of heating fuels. AND, while proponents claimed that the move would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil per day, that was based on information from the 70’s – the DOE no longer stands by the accuracy or relevance of that information.

It’s Dumb, It’s Stupid, and It’s Bad for Your Health and Safety

I was surprised to find that there isn’t necessarily an increase in traffic fatalities and traffic-pedestrian fatalities, but rather evidence suggests a decrease. North America and the UK show a correlation between clock-changing and traffic accidents, but Finland and Sweden do not. However, as far as personal safety on the job and health effects, these facts are not surprising:
  • A 2009 U.S. study found that on Mondays after the switch to DST, workers sleep an average of 40 minutes less, and are injured at work more often and more severely.
  • Changing clocks disrupts sleep and reduces its efficiency
  • Male suicide rates rise after “falling forward”
  • The effects of messing with the Circadian Rhythm can be severe and last for weeks (and I can vouch for MONTHS)
In 2005 the government of Kazakhstan abolished DST because of health complications attributed to DST!
From the time we “spring forward” until a few days after “falling back” to normal time again, I spend my days in a foggy stupor. I am tired and dragging all summer long, when I should be out enjoying the nice weather and all that lovely, cancer-causing daylight. I just want to hibernate all summer long. I have recently developed some health issues, and while I can’t completely blame DST for them, I am certain that it exacerbated them.

Do You Want Fries With That DST?

No discussion of government antics would be complete without a look at the bottom line, and who benefits most from a healthy one.

In the mid 80’s, Clorox and 7-11 provided the primary funding for the Daylight Saving Time Coalition’s push for the  extension of DST in 1987. Both Idaho senators voted for it, based on the premise that fast-food restaurants sell more fries during DST! And what do they grow in abundance in Idaho? Why, potatoes, of course!

In 2005, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores successfully lobbied for the 2007 extension to U.S. DST. Of course, with more daylight hours we’ll have more time for sports…which requires equipment…and apparently a stop at 7-11 for some slurpees afterward. I couldn’t find any mention of Big Pharma, but I’m sure there’s no objection on their part to the prescriptions for sleeping pills so we can get to sleep when it’s still broad daylight out…or the antidepressants because we’re sleep-deprived and slightly mentally unstable…

More Government Control, Please, We Certainly Don’t Have Enough

Of course, the argument can be made that it’s just one more way for the government, which our founding fathers intended not to be the out-of-control monstrosity that it is today, to tell us how to live, how to think and what to do.

I came across a comment on Facebook today that made me look at Dumb Stupid Time in a whole new light:
Evelina Marie EEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! I dislike time change so much. *sigh* I lived in Japan for nearly 20 years and was so spoiled without the time change. I can't get use to it after 15 years. It is like a mass, government ordered jet lag. I'll feel so out of sync with the rest of the world till we go back to normal time. : (            (emphasis mine)

I suppose it’s rather convenient for Them that the sheeple are tired, disoriented, confused and distracted. It makes it a lot easier to stick it to us when we’re not paying attention to the shenanigans in the White House…yep, Dumb Stupid Time is a conspiracy…a nefarious plot to destroy our great nation…can’t say that I’m surprised really. I knew that there was more than one reason I despised, loathed, detested and abhorred it. Between the advertising industry and Big Brother, They’ve found a great way to keep us all in line. But not me…nooooooo way…I will NOT conform…

…in fact, I’m going to buy myself a special watch to wear just during Dumb Stupid Time, so I’ll never have to change a clock. I grudgingly change my watch after several days, since the DST-induced stupor I’m in makes it difficult to figure out what time it is…and what time zone, for that matter. Since I refuse to do it, my husband changes all the clocks. You know, I’m starting to question who’s side he’s really on…

many thanks to Wikipedia for the exhaustive study of the history of DST: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_time_in_the_United_States

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