Saturday, March 7, 2009

Daylight Saving Time!

I love Daylight Saving Time, especially in the spring. For me, the extra hour of daylight in the evenings is synonomous with growth, renewal, happiness, and all things summer. In fact, I consider the extension of Daylight Saving Time in 2006-- by moving up the start date by three weeks in the spring and delaying the end date by a week in the fall-- to be the single crowning achievement of the Bush Administration. I was surprised to find out, however, just how many people disagree with me. They argue that it's hard to get up in the dark and reset their internal clocks, to lose an hour of sleep, and even to lose an hour of drinking time at the bars the night the clocks change.

Although the idea of Daylight Saving Time started with Benjamin Franklin, in an essay written while in Paris in 1784, it wasn't seriously considered until Englishman William Willet took up the cause, lobbying to shift the clocks ahead a total of 80 minutes on four consecutive Sundays in April, and to reverse the progression by the same incriments in November. He began lobbying Parliament in 1909, and was met with much ridicule. He continued to fight for this idea of "Summer Time" until his death in 1915; the bill finally passed in 1916 and was adopted in the U.S. two years later.

The argument has long been that Daylight Saving Time (note it's not Daylight Savings Time, even though that sounds more grammatically correct) helps save energy because people are able to rely on natural light later into the evening. However, the advent of air conditioning seems to have negated these benefits somewhat, as people are instead using the energy to run their fans and window units longer than they might otherwise do. In fact, a study was recently done in Indiana (a state which has been a little slow on the uptake, only switching to DST at the request of the Bush Administration in 2006) that shows energy usage went up during the summer hours, which reinforced their theory that DST was useless. What the study failed to mention, however, was the climate trends and population growth from the years used in the comparison.

Whatever your position on the matter, I find it's easier to get up in the dark those first few mornings when I think ahead to the long, lazy days of summer, and the time spent outdoors in the evenings, when the kids can stay out and play until bedtime. It's much more depressing to me when the daylight goes away, when it's dark by the time I come home from work. And not even an extra hour of sleep can change that.

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