It’s that time of year again, the time when we adjust our clocks to signify the changing of the seasons, to give us more daylight, or in the winter, more darkness. Daylight saving is set to hit this weekend. While we sleep, everyone in the northern hemisphere will lose an hour, while those in the southern hemisphere will gain an hour.
The best way to remember it for those, like me, who can’t seem to remember which way you go is by saying “Spring Forward, Fall Backwards”, meaning if it’s spring, clocks go forward! Easy! For those who have just had a long and cold winter, it’s the start of rising temperatures, shorts and tee shirts and outdoor dining, therefore, in my opinion, it’s something to be welcomed with open arms.
Although I understand the concept of daylight saving, I do sometimes struggle to fully make sense of what it means and why we do it. So I figured it was about time I found out. Where did the concept of daylight saving come from and why do we have it? Well, the modern concept of daylight saving was proposed in 1895 by New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson. Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing to change the clocks by two hours to make better use of the daylight hours. Residents of Christchurch, New Zealand, showed considerable interest and prompted Hudson to write a follow up paper in 1898.
Several years later, English builder William Willet also came up with the idea of advancing the clocks during the summer months when he saw how many Londoners were sleeping through a large part of the summer’s day. Willet published his proposal and took it to MP Robert Pearce who introduced the Bill to the House of Commons in 1908. The Bill failed over the next few years, despite Willet fighting for it over until his death in 1915.
However, the very next year, in 1916, Germany and its WWI allies began adjusting their clocks as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Before long, Britain and its allies followed suit. By 1917, Russia and a few other European countries joined the bandwagon, finally followed by the United States in 1918.
The justification of Daylight Saving is that the total number of daylight hours varies greatly between winter and summer. Therefore if the ‘standard time’ was applied year around, there would be longer sunlight hours in the early morning while people are still asleep, and darker periods during the evening when people are wanting to participate in various activities. It was impractical to expect people to wake up earlier to use those sunlight hours as times of work, school, transport and other daily activities are generally fixed year around. Therefore the concept was to move those morning daylight hours to the evening where people could make the most of those daylight hours.
The effects of daylight savings vary significantly depending on location. There are some points on the globe where daylight saving is almost redundant due to the very long or short days already in effect. Manipulating time in these locations has little practical effect. This often signifies the countries or cities that do not observe daylight saving. Many countries in the north of South America, near the equator, do not observe daylight saving, while the southern countries such as Chile and Brazil do. However for places such as New Zealand and Australia, New York and San Francisco, daylight saving can make a significant difference to the length of daily daylight hours, making the day seem much longer. Most of North America and Europe will be putting their clocks forward this weekend, except for Iceland, Russia and Belarus who no longer adjust their clocks (Russia and Belarus stopped observing daylight saving a year ago in spring 2011.) Most areas of Africa and Asia will also go about their days as usual with no adjusting of their clocks.
While daylight saving is nice when you receive those extra hours of sunlight, people can’t help but complain when it goes the other way and suddenly it’s getting much darker, much earlier for the winter. Then there is the added negative of missing schedules on the day of daylight saving, turning up an hour early or an hour late because you forgot to reset your clock, come on who hasn’t done that?!
So what do you love, or hate, about daylight saving?