- Education and Science
Daylight Savings Time - Keep It Simple Stupid.
Changing the Clock - again.
An exercise in futility
A sense of confusion and frustration pervades virtually every American household twice a year on Sunday mornings, as we switch back and forth from Daylight Savings Time (DST). As we switched back from DST this morning, each of the households would have spent some ten minutes to reset the clocks, watches, timers and all gadgets in their homes and in their business places. That’s about the time I take for this chore, which each one of us has to repeat twice a year. But there are other heartaches that we have to suffer. Each time as we switch back and forth the clocks, it takes me about three days to get into my usual sleep pattern, with difficulties of either getting up on time in the mornings, or falling asleep at my usual time at night. I know that it takes even longer for my 2-year-old granddaughter to get her system adjusted. Do we really need to go through this charade twice a year? How did it all begin, and is there a better way of achieving the same objective?
History of Daylight Savings Time
It all started in Europe during the First World War, when energy sources were scarce. By extending the daylight hours in summer, substantial savings in energy consumption could be achieved. This practice made good sense at a time when nations were at war, and resources were scarce. But a hundred years on, the availability of energy resources and our consumption patterns have undergone dramatic changes. We are told that periodic studies confirm that energy savings do accrue by switching to DST over summer. But one also needs to take a hard look at the other costs associated with this practice.
Energy savings versus other costs
On a more serious note, it is reported that the stress associated with losing an hour due to the time change results in a 10% increase in fatal heart attacks. It’s hard to put a figure on what such fatalities cost our economy. And there are various other factors to be reckoned. For example, the costs associated with the number of people missing flights, or arriving one hour late for appointments on Mondays after the change? How about costs associated with changes in schedules for Airlines, Trains, Buses, Ships amongst others? And of course the time almost each one of us spends twice a year setting all our clocks and devices back and forth. As mentioned above, in my case it’s about 10 minutes twice a year, that’s 20 minutes a year. If one assumes a conservative total of 500 million people around the world that are involved in these tasks, that comes to more than 150 million man hours a year!
There is no saving of time
The use of the word “saving” is in itself questionable. The term “Daylight Savings Time” suggests that one saves time by switching over to that time. The objective might be to save energy, but you do not save time by adjusting your clocks. This point was driven home very graphically some years ago by a Native American Chief, who commented that the notion of getting extra daylight by adjusting the clock is similar to someone cutting off a piece of a blanket from the top and then stitching it to the bottom, to claim that the blanket is now longer!
There is a simpler way
I believe there is a better way to do it. The countries in the Third World do not have the luxury of experimenting with seasonal time adjustments. I have lived many years in Asian and African countries, where DST is (luckily) not observed. So what do they do when the days get shorter in winter? They just have different timings in summer and winter for Schools and Government offices, while commercial establishments change their timings at their convenience. Actually, in our country, some local public offices including public libraries change their timings over summer and winter. And just a handful of States do not switch to DST – but alas, a vast majority still does.
Now isn’t keeping just one time all year round and seasonally adjusting schedules a whole lot simpler than what we all have to go through twice a year, just so that we follow the Daylight Savings Time? Yet another area where one can apply the KISS rule – Keep It Simple Stupid!