Objecting to daylight savings: The annual theft of an hour - opinion

Do some basic fact-checking and it won’t take long to determine that the traditionally accepted reasons for instituting daylight-saving time are no more than myths and baseless legends.

ASK YOURSELF honestly if you control your time or if it controls you (photo credit: JON TYSON/UNSPLASH)
ASK YOURSELF honestly if you control your time or if it controls you
(photo credit: JON TYSON/UNSPLASH)

The theft will take place, as it does every year, in the early morning hours between Thursday and Friday of next week.

And, as is experienced annually, that Friday will count only 23 hours instead of the usual 24, the theft of an hour representing an aberration of nature that is becoming increasingly unpopular throughout the world.

So, as if we do not have enough to worry about or give attention to, we now have to, in addition, remember to “spring forward” and engage in the biannual practice of changing the clock. Which I wouldn’t mind, if something good would come out of the change. In fact, very little does.

The arguments in support of daylight-saving time or summer time are for the most part superficial and scientifically unproven. There is a commonly held belief that there is a reduction in the amount of energy that is consumed during the summer months when daylight-saving time is in effect, but that may be valid when the measurement is based on the use of electricity only.

A snapshot of the “big picture” suggests that when non-electricity sources are considered in the calculation – for example, heating oil required during cold, dark mornings and extra gasoline needed for automobile air conditioning during the long, hot days of summer – an overall reduction in energy consumption resulting from daylight-saving time may be negligible at best.

 ONCE THE clock stopped, the serenity started. (credit: UNSPLASH) ONCE THE clock stopped, the serenity started. (credit: UNSPLASH)

It should therefore come as no surprise that through the first twenty-some years of this century there have been a number of efforts promoting the abolishment of daylight-saving time, arguing that not only are there no more than minimal advantages to having longer days through the spring and summer, but the practice of adding an hour of daylight during the summer months may in fact be counter-productive. 

Based on studies that were undertaken in various locations in the United States, the switch actually resulted in increased energy consumption when the measurement of consumption was calculated as an annual figure. Experts, in addition, have pointed out that with climate change an increasingly serious problem, this additional consumption – which may incur pollution-related social costs of up to $5 million a year – should be avoided if at all possible.

Still, arguments that might be relevant for an Economics 101 seminar may not be entirely persuasive to the general public. Health issues related to daylight-savings time, though, might be. While we eagerly wait for those first warm breezes of spring and the reappearance of leaves and flowers, it’s easy to overlook that there will more likely than not be an increased number of heart attacks, strokes and miscarriages caused by the physical stress of losing that hour. 

In fact, in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Neurology, a team of scientists and physicians not long ago reviewed the evidence linking the annual switch of the clock to various illnesses and ailments. Their conclusion was that the links are valid and the evidence strongly suggests that making standard time permanent would be the proper course of action.

Rumor has it, moreover, that daylight-saving time brings about a reduction in the number of traffic accidents. Actually, it doesn’t. True, there is a lower number of accidents that occur during the evening hours, but the number of early morning accidents rise significantly. And, more importantly perhaps, immediately after the clocks are changed, there is a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities that occur during the early part of the evening.

Do some basic fact-checking and it won’t take long to determine that the traditionally accepted reasons for instituting daylight-saving time are no more than myths and baseless legends. Historians agree, for example, that Benjamin Franklin was being playful and satirical – which was not at all unlike him, of course – when he suggested the idea of pushing the clock forward. And farmers snicker at the notion that the biannual change was to help them out. Their workday begins at sunrise and ends at sunset; their concern with the clock is checking the time to break for lunch.

Who, then, is in favor of daylight-saving time? Well, for starters, there are the businesses and enterprises that profit from the extra hour of daylight. Retailers, too, are more than happy with the time change since consumers prefer doing their shopping in sunshine rather than moonlight, although online shopping will soon make that argument irrelevant.

And, yes, I suppose that having an extra hour to frolic at the beach or splash around in a swimming pool is not an unwelcome advantage of a longer summer day. 

But when balanced against the harmful and potentially fatal consequences of forcing the human body to adjust to time changes twice a year, gaiety gets pushed off the top of the agenda.

We’re left, then, with the question as to why we – Israel as well as most of the rest of the world – continue to bear the costs and complexity associated with changing the clock come March each year.

The change, in fact, is not synchronized throughout the world, and is not even made in a number of countries and several of the states in the US. Insofar as the intended purpose of daylight-saving time – the conservation of energy – is no longer valid and there are proven negative consequences of making the biannual change, why perpetuate a pointless tradition?

It’s too late, I suppose, to prevent the theft of that precious hour this year, so all we can do is wait until it is returned – unharmed and intact – during the early days of autumn. 

Now, though, is the time to prepare for the future. Israel has the responsibility to make an international statement and tell the world that the foolishness and risks associated with daylight-saving time will no longer be tolerated, and as of October 2022 will be on standard time permanently. 

It won’t be long, I assure you, before other countries will legislate the change as well.

The writer is a retired technical communicator currently assisting nonprofit organizations in the preparation of grant submissions and struggling to master the ins and outs of social media.