I currently live in Arizona where we do not switch from standard time to daylight savings time. We are Mountain Standard all the time. That means that in June, it starts getting light here a little after 4 in the morning and it’s completely dark again by about 8:30 or so. I’m assuming that we don’t spring forward like the the rest of our neighboring states because of the heat. I must admit, that it’s not so bad out at 4 am in the middle of summer, but really, I don’t want to be starting my day then. I’m not a morning person!
I guess I could complain, but then I’d have to do something about it, like get together all my fellow night owls, start a letter writing campaign, talk to my elected officials and push for the votes in the state legislature to turn Arizona into a daylight savings state. We seem to be a pretty contrary bunch though in this state, so I’m betting my chances of making a change are slim to none. If you’re thinking that you might have a better shot at coordinating folks nationwide to reconsider either standard or daylight savings time, here are some of the myths you might want to address, and what you’re up against as you lobby for change.
It’s Not Ben Franklin’s Fault
Back in 1784 when Ben Franklin was hanging out in France, he wrote a piece of satire that was published in the Journal de Paris. He was poking fun at all the partying the Parisians did and he suggested firing cannons to wake them up in the morning. He did the math to find out that if they would wake up in the morning, and sleep instead of party, they would save 64 million pounds of candle wax over six months.
The idea that we could save energy by changing our clocks has come up time and time again. (No pun intended.) The logic is that by switching to daylight savings time we turn our lights on an hour later and thus we save electricity. According to Skeptoid (a weekly science podcast that analyzes pop phenomena), this was true when the question was studied in the U.S. during the 1970s oil crisis. We realized a 100,000-barrel savings in the summer compared to if we had not switched to daylight savings.
But times have changed, and air conditioning is a lot more prevalent here, and that means that we no longer experience any great savings from the switch. In fact, environmental economist Hendrik Wolff says, “Everywhere there is air conditioning, our evidence suggests that daylight savings is a loser.”
It’s Great Britain and New Zealand’s Fault
George Hudson in New Zealand in 1895, and Englishman William Wennet in 1907 thought an extra hour of daylight would give folks more time for fun in the evening. Of course, that wouldn’t work so well in the winter, when days are shorter, and children would have to head to school in the dark. By switching back and forth, our work day would fit into the narrow band of daylight during the winter, and then drop down to the bottom of the wider band of daylight in the summer. The idea was that our wakeup times would roughly align with sunrise, but give us extra daylight in the evenings to enjoy playtime during the longer days of summer.
Farmers LOVE Daylight Savings Time
I don’t know if this is true or not. Every year when daylight savings comes around again, I see numerous complaints from farmers about the switch, but that’s not a great measure given that I don’t actively ask folks if they like the change. But, one of the most popular myths is that we switch back and forth for the benefit of farmers. The idea behind this is that certain farm tasks have to be done at sunrise, no matter what it says on the clock. So by changing the clocks, we make morning come at a little more reasonable time for farmers.
We Do It For the Money
There is data showing that the change is good for our health. We do more outdoor activities in the evening, and we get more vitamin D. In fact, folks running television stations say that their viewership drops when daylight savings starts, so they’re not such proponents of the change. On the other hand, there is data that shows that the change itself is hard on our health for at least the first week as we adjust. Folks at UC Santa Barbara also suggested that there’s an environmental cost of daylight savings of several million dollars per year in pollution as a result of all the extra time folks spend shopping, dining, golfing and having fun.
As we extend daylight savings longer and longer in the year, it affects other industries as well. Airlines say it throws their schedules out of sync with Europe, disrupting overseas travel and costing them $147 million. That’s offset by the golf industry that brought in an additional $200 million when we extended daylight savings by one month in 1986. And candy manufacturers were pretty tickled when, in 2007, we decided to extend daylight savings into November, giving kids an extra hour of trick-or-treating at Halloween.
After spending quite a bit of time looking into this, Skeptoid author Brian Dunning says that whatever your position on Daylight Savings, you can probably find data to support it. But in the end he says, “Daylight saving is one case where the fewer words you use to describe it, the more accurate you are. One word: Money. The more details you go into beyond that, the more treacherous your footing.”
So What Will We Do?
By April, I’m guessing that most of the daylight savings folks will be enjoying the switch. Maybe it’s just the long extensions we have that are really bugging us. Meanwhile, I’ll see you at 4 in the morning! 🙂