Great Scott…It’s Daylight Savings!

It’s that time of year again; the time of year we all look forward to and dread… daylight savings! Living in a different country, that doesn’t observe the tradition, got me thinking, “What’s the original purpose of this practice? Does it still have any validity in today’s society? Where did come from?” In today’s post, I  want to take a shot at answering those questions.

What is daylight savings?
The practice is where we adjust our clocks twice a year. Once to “advance” or “spring” our clocks forward in mid-March and to “delay” or “fall” back to standard time in early November.

What was the original rationale for it?
The standardization of clocks came into being thanks to the transcontinental railroad. Because people and things could move across the country in a day’s time, there was now a need to set a standardized system of time. Prior to this, most villages, towns, and cities adjusted their time according to local astrological measurements, position of the sun, etc.  Once time was standardized however, there was a bright idea that by setting clocks forward, people would be able to work longer hours or enjoy more hours of daylight.

The problem with this is that it assumed that all areas that observe the practice have the same amount of daylight and darkness, which just isn’t true. Depending on geographic location, daylight can extend well beyond the norms of other locations. For example, coming from Texas, I once attended a wedding in Minnesota and was amazed that the sun didn’t go down until 10:30 p.m. at night!

Another theory suggests that an early goal was to help conserve energy. The idea being if there was more daylight, people would use less artificial light. Early studies supporting this notion claimed that daylight savings would conserve up to 1% of energy per day. This survey was done in the 1970’s.  Much has changed since that study however, including our energy consumption patterns.  The conservation of energy argument assumes that most work occurs during the day. Second, it assumes that most consumption patterns are the same as well. Especially in today’s mobile society, we are constantly plugged into the system, working around the clock and consuming energy with or without daylight.

Why hasn’t it been done away with yet?
There are most likely several reasons that the cancellation of daylight savings hasn’t taken effect yet. One of which is cost. Think about all of the infrastructure that has been ingrained with this rule, not just in the U.S. but also in world.  Just imagine that every computer, cell phone, tablet device, laptop, business program, and just about every application in the world has already hardwired this event into their core.

As with any other proposal that would affect the quarterly reports of corporations, I’m assuming that there probably has been some defensiveness from outdoor companies who obviously benefit from the extra daylight.

Another big obstacle to a proposed change such as this is change itself and the attitudes that surround it. People are necessary to make change happen and the support and acceptance would have to be there in order for it to take hold. The benefits would have to be almost self explanatory and would need to be perceived as having enough value or worth putting up with the discomfort of change.

Is there still validity for the practice?
I would argue no. This is just my humble opinion, but I cannot seem to make a case for keeping it around.  I have already described it’s supposed rationale and how most of the arguments have already been debunked. Furthermore, I believe that as our economy continues to globalize, we will face more pressures to move to a standard time. Most importantly, to me anyway, and what this post all boils down to, is that it creates a headache for me, my staff, and my clients. I’m all for a set schedule!

It also seems that I’m not the only one thinking about this. If you would like more information or like to read other commentaries, feel free to visit the links below:
http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/do-we-still-need-daylight-saving-time
http://www.energy.ca.gov/daylightsaving.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time

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