Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Myth of Day-Light Saving Time

Time for a change by Bryan Rourke

I found this bit of trivia interesting since I always wonder why in the heck do we go through this change twice a year. Seems rather stupid to me and I was always told (especially since I grew up in a farming community) that it was for the farmers. Well......

Michael Downing decided to follow up on that theory and wrote a book about it!

The best explanation so far is offered in "Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time" (Shoemaker & Hoard). Downing's soon-to-be-released encyclopedic book explores the confounding, conflicting and almost comical history of the subject.
After 18 months of research, reviewing the Congressional Record as well as old newspaper articles, editorials and letters to the editor, Downing still didn't find a definitive justification for daylight-saving time.

Instead, he found a decades-long debate where people occasionally changed sides, and neither side made much sense.

"The material was so contradictory I couldn't find a through line," he says. "Each time I thought I had a way to launch the book, I would come across something that would change my idea. I thought I'll just keep going to the library and something will happen."

The idea for daylight-saving time started with Ben Franklin in the 18th century and gained widespread interest in England in 1907. But it was first implemented in 1916 in Germany, which claimed it would save energy costs and therefore be good for its war effort.

So in 1918, according to Downing, in the name of promoting its own war effort, America followed suit - briefly. Two years later, Congress repealed the practice, but it was then randomly and erratically continued in various cities and counties until it was standardized in 1966.

Downing dispels the notion that daylight-saving time saves significant energy costs. And, he says, the widespread idea that farmers had pushed for the change to have more time to tend their fields is simply incorrect.

"From the first," Downing writes, "farmers opposed Daylight Saving, which was an urban idea of a good idea, hatched in London and cultivated in cities of Europe and the northern United States."

Farmers protested the time shift because they said it would force their animals to work during hotter daylight hours.

Among those who supported daylight-saving time was Major League Baseball, according to Downing, which in the era before lighted fields could make more money if its daylight games weren't called on account of darkness.

In his book, Downing doesn't simply talk about daylight-saving time, but the standardization of time itself.

Guess you'll have to buy the encyclopedia to find out the answer. Maybe we could just get all the states to Stop this stupid practice and save our sleep deprived bodies from having to adjust to the change. Hmmm?

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