Tick-tock turmoil: weighing DST’s worth

I wish this past Sunday had been April Fool’s Day – and that the joke was that Daylight Saving Time was going to begin.
Because to me and countless others it is a joke.
Too bad, though. We’ve once again lost an hour of sleeping time and are in the throes of adjusting to yet another misuse of the time continuum.
As the old saying goes, you can’t cut off one end of the blanket, sew it to the other end and expect the blanket to be longer.
I know. That doesn’t totally fit this situation, but it almost does. Others think so, too, or there wouldn’t be the continued debate about Daylight Saving Time’s effectiveness.
So what’s the deal? Does DST help with energy conservation or not?
Some studies suggest that energy savings are minimal, while others argue that it does contribute to reduced energy consumption. Whatever the case, these debates have influenced discussions on its continued relevance.
One thing it does give us: extra time in the evenings for sporting and recreational events and – if we’re in the mood and have a bit of extra cash – additional shopping. These things can be seen as a way to stimulate economic activity and promote a more active lifestyle. So that’s good.
But contrast that with health issues that the time disruption produces. The biannual springing forward and falling back can upset people’s circadian rhythms, leading to health issues such as sleep disturbances and increased risk of heart attacks.
I feel so strongly about the Daylight Saving Time issue (I take my sleep very seriously) that I wrote an earlier column about it and sent it to U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow. I never heard back, so I don’t know if it did any good or not.
That was my thoughtful take on the matter. Today, I want to change the pace and look at both some whimsical and historical aspects of the situation. Here goes.
Benjamin Franklin’s Satirical Proposal: While Ben Franklin is often credited with the idea of DST, he actually proposed it in jest. In a satirical essay, he suggested various ways to save candle wax, including taxing shutters, rationing candles and firing cannons at sunrise to wake up the citizens.
The Entomologist’s Frustration: The first serious proposal for DST came from a paper published in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson, an entomologist in New Zealand. He wanted more daylight for his hobby of collecting insects in the evening, which led to the idea of shifting the clocks. But his idea wasn’t just one more hour; he was greedy. He wanted two.
Germany’s War Time Efficiency: In 1916, Germany was the first country to implement DST as a way to conserve coal during World War I. The United Kingdom and other European countries soon followed, with the United States adopting it in 1918. After the war, however, DST in the U.S. was repealed due to mixed public opinions and its not being uniformly observed across the nation. The U.S. Congress adopted it again in 1966 but allowed states to exempt themselves.
A Bombing Thwarted by the Time Change: In a more serious turn of events, Daylight Saving Time once prevented a terrorist attack. In 1999, West Bank terrorists did not account for Israel’s time change, causing their bombs to detonate an hour early, which inadvertently saved the intended victims.
So, now, as we fumble through yet another clock shift, the laughter of Daylight Saving Time seems to echo caustically in the March wind. This dance of time leaves us questioning the ticking hands of the clock itself and, maybe most of all, that previous lost hour of sleep.

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Thomas FieldsThomas “Tuffy” Fields is an author and regular contributor to The Gazette. He can …

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