Spring Ahead, Fall Behind


There are many theories and ideas out there about daylight savings time (DST).  There are generally 2 theories about the origins of DST:

  • to help the farmers
  • because of the war

According to Tufts University professor Michael Downing, there has been opposition to DST for a century.

“The whole proposition that you can gain or lose an hour is at best theoretical,” he said. “So I think from the start people had no clear idea what we were doing or why we were doing it. It just generates confusion, and confusion generates bad will.”

Source:  National Geographic

You might be wondering how a conversation on daylight savings time relates to the public relations profession.  And it all comes down to this:  In the 24/7 world we live in, the effects of changing the clocks forward and back ultimately end up hurting us.  DST has no place in the fast-paced, go-go-go lifestyles that PR and communications staff live.

The truth of the matter is, there has been no actual consistency for how DST is handled; it did begin because of WW1 and an effort to conserve electricity.  However, most of the 31 countries who adopted “war time” repealed those efforts once WW1 ended.  When WW2 started, this time 52 countries were back to switching the clocks.  However, the days that we switch them on now – 2nd Sunday in March & 1st Sunday in November – were not the original ones.

The United States has essentially been the ones to control our fate in Canada (except for Saskatchewan – maybe they’re on to something, although I cannot give a province that is home to the Riders any credit!)  They’ve tinkered with the laws surrounding this issue (called the Uniform Time Act) since the late 60’s.  It is interesting to read the 3 reasons the US Government gives for DST:

  • Saves energy
  • Saves lives and reduces traffic incidents
  • Reduction in crime

While it is true that it started to help conserve energy, that rationale just doesn’t cut it anymore.  While we are supposedly taking advantage of the extra hour of sunlight to be outside (not using energy), because it is summer time we have our air conditioners on.  According to one study done in the US, there was actually a 1% RISE in energy consumption during daylight savings time.

As for saving lives, there has been many studies done showing that human bodies react poorly to the attempted change to our circadian rhythm.  Moving clocks forward and back again interrupts normal sleep cycles, causing a sort of perpetual jet lag that leads to decreased productivity and quality of life and increased fatigue and susceptibility to illness.  A Swedish study published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine identified that heart attacks rose by 5% during the week following DST.  A study done in the United States showed that heart attacks actually decreased by 10% in the week after standard time begins.  There is also a correlation between DST and traffic accidents – thereby completely refuting this argument.

As for the crime issue, there has not been much stated on that.  Interested readers might want to explore Wilson & Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory to form their own opinion.

How about that argument of helping farmers?  Nope, farmers have railed against it since the beginning.  They don’t need a clock to tell them when to get up, they already get up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of all the sunlight they can during planting and harvest seasons.

My belief is that while DST had its use, the reasons behind it are no longer relevant.  Considering that most countries in the world DON’T use it (only 70 out of 196 countries use it), it would make the most sense for us to abolish it.  Just don’t let Saskatchewan think they had anything to do with it!

sweet brown dst

National Geographic  Standard Time  Time and Date  How Stuff Works

While you’re here, let me know what you think!


About Dani K

Passionate young professional with a commitment to positive change. Partisan politico. Sometimes runner.
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