Why the Controversy over Daylight Savings Time Continues

Posted: March 13, 2022 12:27 am

Daylight Savings Time is one of the more interesting traditions that industrialized countries follow. Originally designed ostensibly to help farmers in temperate areas, it has helped some sectors while hurting others.

The concept is pretty simple: Sometime prior to summer clocks are shifted one hour forward and then shifted back sometime prior to winter; by shifting the time around, the idea is to help productivity, energy costs, and even allow for greater playtime. However, there is some debate as to whether or not it has been successful, or at least successful enough to warrant its use.

The Origins

Temperate regions have always had to deal with time issues. Due to their location in the middle latitudes, they see some extremes in day length that can affect numerous businesses and recreations, and some people have sought to temper that. As train schedules and then communication networks required more accurate time-keeping, it was hard to miss the effects of shifting daylight on work.

While there had been some adjustments to the business prior to 1908, such as private businesses changing their hours based on the season, there were no specific governmental policies about the time shift.

The first actual attempt at Daylight Savings Time came from New Zealand entomologist George Hudson in 1895; he learned to value after-work daylight and attempted to work it through the Assembly. However, Port Arthur, Ontario, would be the first community to actually implement the system in 1908, and it would become popular towards the end of World War I in order to save coal.

While most countries would drop it soon after, it would become popular again towards the end of World War II. This time it would stick and has been part of most countries since then.

Why It Is Debated

Suffice to say that the policy has been hotly debated since its inception. The problem is that while the general consensus is that it does serve a good purpose and a general policy ensures that everyone is more or less on the same page, the effects of DST have generally been all over the place.

For example, it helps to ensure that children are not left in the dark at bus stops at much but at the same time decreases their sleep time. Even the savings in energy use, the impetus behind its acceptance, are at a debatable .3% overall savings.

In general, interests in retailing, sports, and tourism support it while those in agricultural and evening entertainment oppose it. DST gives retailers and tourism spots longer summer hours to build their business, while sports venues like that people have more daylight to enjoy their games.

As an extreme, candy companies supported it because they were better able to take advantage of later daylight hours during Halloween to sell more candy. Conversely, it complicates the schedules of farmers as their animals do not change their schedules to match DST while it cuts into the time evening entertainment has to really shine.

Time Zone Issues

Making it even more questionable is that not all countries implement DST the same way. Not only are starting and ending dates dependent on the individual countries but there are numerous exceptions. For example, in Islamic countries where DST is implemented, it may not be implemented during the month of Ramadan.

This can make scheduling difficult, especially in a world where coordinating schedules due to regular time zones can be difficult. If implementation were more regular and less subject to local laws and traditions, it would possibly be seen as less of a problem.

In short, while some industries gain some advantage from extended summer hours, others tend to suffer from it. However, there is just enough of an advantage to keep it around; this may change as the pandemic forces more people to stay at home and schedules less dependent on daylight, especially as light bulbs become more energy-efficient and cut into the energy savings.

In Conclusion

Daylight Savings Time has proven to be one of the more interesting and debated policies. While it has been shown to have some use, it has created just as many problems. As society moves more and more towards a 24-hour schedule, it should be interesting to see if it remains or becomes yet another relic of a forgotten age.

Given the number of ongoing debates on the topic, it should even be interesting to see just how long the concept remains throughout the world. Nonetheless, it is part of a lot of people’s lives and is something that needs to be dealt with, at least for now.

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