Daylight Savings Time 2012: Remember to Turn Your Clocks Back One Hour, and Here is Why


This coming Sunday our clocks will “fall back” an hour at 1:59am as Daylight Savings Time (DST) ends. But why do we have Day Light Savings Time? Benjamin Franklin encouraged it because it saved money on candle wax, and today retailers advocate for it. While it may seem that we are arbitrarily changing time for supposed economic benefit, we are really just slightly modifying the way we arbitrarily view time. 

Daylight Savings Time was first conceived in New Zealand by George Vernon Hudson who needed more daylight after work so he could collect bugs. It was also independently thought of by William Willet in England who lamented that Londoners slept in wasted valuable daylight that could be better spent riding horses. Willet eventually published a pamphlet called “The Waste of Daylight” that garnered interest, though DST wasn't adopted in the United States until 1918.

Daylight Savings Time is said to help retailers and reduce traffic fatalities. However, farmers largely detest it. As any decision that effects the entire country there is considerable debate about it. But diverging opinions about the magnitude and substance of its effects merely show us that the results of DST are inconclusive. In a world of artificial lighting an extra hour of daylight makes hardly any difference. We far from have uniform work schedules, and our behavior makes more of a difference to the amount of sunlight we are are exposed to than anything else.

The idea that changing the clock can change our behavior is embedded in Daylight Savings Time. Its measurable effect is impossible to measure conclusively. There will surely be dispute about it in the future just as there was in the past. It is a wonder we were ever able to agree on a time at all.