Daylight Saving Time–Time to Ditch the Switch – By Yvonne Sam

By Yvonne Sam

Saving and improving or paving the way for continued mortal consequences?

Annually in the spring, whether we like it or not we are prompted to wake up an hour earlier. Yes, each year we openly swear, mutter under our collective breaths and wonder as to the mental level of the individual(s) who invented Daylight Saving Time.  Very few humans are aware of the fact that one man’s love of insects could have such a disturbing effect on the lives of so many individuals, and additionally on an annual basis.

In 1895, British born, New Zealand astronomer and entomologist, George Vernon Hudson, first posited the notion of daylight saving time, primarily because he wanted more daylight hours to better study his insects.  In 1895, he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society, proposing a 2-hour shift forward in October and a corresponding 2-hour shift back in March. .The idea was never followed through although it did evoke interest.       

In 1905, independently from Hudson, British builder William Willett suggested setting the clocks ahead 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April, and switching them back by the same amount on each of the four Sundays in September, a total of eight time switches per year.

Willett’s plan found favour, catching the attention of Robert Pearce, a British Member of Parliament, who later introduced a bill to the House of Commons in February 1908. The first daylight savings Bill was drafted in 1909, introduced several times to Parliament and reviewed by a select committee.  Sadly, it faced opposition, by many people especially farmers and was never made into a law

However, while parliament initially dismissed the idea, nevertheless the English parliament later accepted daylight saving time in an attempt to preserve energy. The more in synch time is with daylight, the less necessary electric lights become.

Germany became the first country to embrace daylight saving time in 1916, to conserve energy during the middle of WW1.  A few weeks later Britain (United Kingdom) jumped on the bandwagon, with other countries like Canada and America following suit. Again most countries discontinued the practice when WW11 drew to an end. The practice was restored during WW11, but was not standardized in the U. S until 1966 when Congress passed the Uniform Times Act, which established a statewide system of daylight saving time. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson

Hawaii and Arizona (aside from the Navajo Nation) are the only states that do not observe daylight saving time. There are other states that hope to join them.  California voters decide in November whether to eliminate the time change. In Florida, the state legislature approved a law to do away with the switch. Congress, however, has final say on whether any such change can happen.

Canada first observed daylight saving time in 1908. The residents of Port Arthur, which ids Thunder Bay today, turned back their clocks on July 1, 1908 to begin the world’s first daylight savings time. Other locations across Canada soon followed– Regina in Saskatchewan in 1914,  and the cities of Winnipeg, and Brandon  in Manitoba on April 24, 1916.

In Canada daylight savings time is purely a provincial matter.  While the majority of jurisdictions have followed the practice, there remain certain areas that have not, for example, Québec’s North Shore,

Fort Nelson in British Columbia, Peace River Regional District, B.C., Pickle Lake , Ontario, New Osnaburgh, Ontario, Creston, B.C., Atikokan, Ontario.  These exceptions are actually the global norm as most of the world has not enforced daylight savings time; the practice is not in effect in 79% of countries worldwide, and it has been abandoned in the last decades by many countries.

Even in the face of its long history, daylight saving time has faced growing criticism in the last few years. In fact, there is a growing movement to end the practice. In a U.S conducted telephone survey in 2013, 45 per cent of the respondents thought daylight saving time was useless.

The growing disapproval is chiefly a result of the negative consequences associated with daylight saving time.  A study of hospitals in Michigan found that the heart attack rates rose by 25% on the Monday immediately after clocks go forward in the spring. By contrast, risk for heart attack dropped 21 percent on the Tuesday after the fall time change.  Also spring daylight saving time has been affiliated with an increased number of road accidents. In 2014 there was a twenty percent rise in car accidents in Manitoba, on the Monday following the change. Manitoba Public Insurance says the evidence infers that moving ahead by an hour early Sunday morning — and losing an hour of sleep as a result — may have an adverse effect on drivers.

Perhaps daylight savings time interrupt sleeping patterns.  Sleeping disturbances can lead to mood disorders, poorer memory, diminished concentration level, increased irritability. Research shows that the rate of diagnosed depression, especially Seasonal Affective Disorder increases significantly in the first week following the spring change.

Taking into full account the negative effects accompanying daylight saving time, some governments across Canada are taking measures to cease this biannual practice.  In March 2019, the European Union Commission voted to abolish daylight saving time by 2021, after 84 percent of EU citizens supported ending DST in a public survey. The premier of British Colombia, John Horgan, dispatched a letter to governors in the states of Washington, Oregon and California requesting to be kept in the loop on no longer changing the clocks twice a year. The jurisdictions are looking at ways to stay on either Daylight Saving Time or Pacific Standard Time year-round.

The Premier says there are too many economic and social ties that prevent British Columbia from going ahead with the switch without the other coastal jurisdictions. California voted overwhelmingly to look at sticking with Daylight Saving Time year-round.  By changing our clocks we are purportedly saving daylight to improve our lives in a number of ways, but by contrast the evidence a different story says.  There is no reason to hold on to the routine of an era long past, clearly it is time to ditch the switch.  This advice keep No Messing With Our Sleep!

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