Carolyn Fields is a lifelong learner, musician, author, world traveler, truth enthusiast, and all-around bon vivant.
What Time Is It?
Keep in mind that global time zones were not in use before the late 1800s. Before that, people used sunrise and sunset to make reference to the time of day. It wasn't until the advent of railways and long-distance communications that the need for a "standard" time became apparent.
Once the time of day became standardized around the globe, it was possible to accurately coordinate the time of, say, a phone call. Or if a train left Chicago at 9 AM, you could accurately tell someone when it was set to arrive in Los Angeles. This made life a whole lot easier, at least for people making long-distance telephone calls and traveling by train.
But this didn't do anything to standardize how much daylight you might expect at the beginning and end of a workday. As everyone knows, when the sun rises and sets changes throughout the year. So a "standard" 6 AM wake-up call might be in the dark or after sunrise, based on the time of year. So by adjusting the time forward and backward, it was possible to have more daylight in the morning or evening, depending on what made sense.
Contrary to popular thought, Ben Franklin did not invent Daylight Saving Time. In fact, he would never have proposed the changing of clocks, since the rising and setting of the sun was the common timekeeper in his day.
He did, however, run some calculations that showed the financial benefits of basing your daily schedule on sunrise and sunset through “the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.” That was way back in 1784, long before the standardization of time zones.
In the twenty-first century, few of us are concerned with how many candles we burn. We are, however, concerned with our overall energy usage and the amount of daylight, while we are awake, does impact that.
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Why Daylight Saving Time?
Daylight Saving Time was legislated into existence in 1916 as part of Germany's effort to save energy for war use. It was thought of as a way of conserving energy and providing more usable hours of daylight.
Great Britain did the same during WWI, followed by the United States. The U.S. repealed the measure in 1919, only to bring it back for WWII. But again it was dropped in 1945.
Daylight Saving Time came back in 1974 during the oil crisis, once again to conserve energy by having more so-called usable hours of daylight. For example, when you "spring forward" by an hour, you have more daylight in the early evening but less in the early morning, when presumably people are still sleeping.
Farmers Hate Daylight Saving Time
The work that farmers do is tied to the sun, not the clock. By "springing forward," their hired workers would leave for supper when the sun was still very much up in the sky. Also, cows don't care what the clock says in terms of being fed or milked. Anyone who has a pet can attest to the fact that they will still be hungry at the same time of day, whether the clock says 6 PM or 7 PM. In the cities, on the other hand, an extra hour to go shopping in the evenings is a definite win for businesses.
Does Daylight Saving Time Work Today?
Fast forward to 2022. With the advent of home air conditioning, which uses far more energy than lighting, the situation has changed dramatically. More daylight after the workday is done increases the use of air conditioning, since people will switch it on when they arrive home after work. This puts a significant demand on the power grid, along with running dishwashers and washing machines.
This shift in how people use electricity has a lot of people scratching their heads over why we are still going through this drill. Perhaps it's time for Congress to look into it. It's an outdated and confusing practice that simply doesn't make sense any longer.
I, for one, would certainly love to stop setting my clock forward and backward during the year. Besides the annoying aspect of going around the house and resetting all of the clocks, there is a toll on the human body due to disrupted sleep patterns. And, of course, there is that awkward moment when you walk into a meeting an hour late or an hour early because you didn't get the memo.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Carolyn Fields