With the nearly nationwide return this past weekend to Standard Time (I say nearly because not all states or territories observe Daylight Saving Time) I got curious once again about this scourge of school children everywhere.
I’ll start with a short quiz.
1. What does DST stand for?
A. Daylight Savings Time
B. Daylight Saving Time
2. What parts of the US do not follow DST?
B. Puerto Rico
C. Hawaii and Guam
D. The US Virgin Islands and American Samoa
E. All of the above
3. For what purpose was DST first instituted?
A. As a means to help farmers
B. As a safety measure during WWII to facilitate blackouts.
C. As a health measure to guard against heart attacks.
D. As an energy measure during WWI to save fuel
The answers are B, E, and D
I know. I thought it was Daylight Savings Time too.
I’ve learned a lot preparing for today’s blog. And I am encouraged.
You see, ever since my two Peace Corps years in Kazakhstan where President Nursultan Nazarbayev did away with DST in his country with just a flick of his pen, I’ve been wondering why America doesn’t do the same thing.
Actually, because we live in a democracy, and one whose lawmakers rely on special interest groups for their information (and their money; sorry, I digress), it’s not so easy to just do away with it. As we all know by now, democracy is not very efficient. I’m not knocking it, mind you. Just saying …
I’ve long liked that quote from Winston Churchill:
Democracy is the worst form of government,
except for all those others that have been tried from time to time.
So, given we’ve got special interests lined up advocating for their interests, I wondered who would these special interests be?
Before today’s post, I assumed it would be the farmers. I can still remember one of my high school teachers telling us that DST would enable farmers to have a longer time for their harvest.
And, given that the U.S. extended DST during the energy crisis of 1973-74 (I remember that too), I thought probably DST saves energy. I also figured it must be popular among the majority for it to still be around.
I turned to the Internet for verification.
My first stop was an article from National Geographic magazine of November 3, 2013
from which I learned the following
- DST “doesn’t save us money or energy.”
- DST first began during WWI as energy saving measure, but today, in “any place that has air conditioning, … daylight saving is a loser.”
- Arizona—except for residents of the Navajo Nation—Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands ignore DST.
- Fewer than 40% of Americans surveyed think DST is worth the hassle.
- Over the past 50 years, DST has been stretched from six months to seven months to now eight months in part because several industries have been huge supporters.
- Economics have always played a role in the politics of daylight saving time. In the mid-1980s, for example, the golf industry estimated that an extra month of DST was worth $200 to $400 million.
Golf? How many Americans play golf? What other industries benefit, I wondered. Then read:
- During that same time, the U.S. barbecue industry pegged their increased profits at $150 million for that same additional month.
That figures. More time for bar-b-ques.
- Daylight saving reliably increases the amount of driving that Americans do, and gasoline consumption tracks up with daylight saving.
- Oil and auto industries have always been big supporters of DST
These are all quotes from the article. I didn’t make any of this up. Honest.
So, that’s who is lined up advocating for DST. Who’s hoping to end it?
Turns out the farmers want an end to DST, particularly the dairy farmers. Seems their cows are a bit put out with the time change. Teachers too (officially, the PTA, so maybe it’s more the parents). And quite a few religious groups (particularly orthodox ones) whose prayer schedule is based on the sun.
The TV industry is opposed to DST. The most popular shows, according to the Nielsen ratings, go down by 10 – 15 percent in viewership during the first week of DST.
And the White House. Here’s another quote:
- A White House petition to end DST entirely stalled earlier this year because it failed to garner the required number of signatures.
There’s the economic downside from DST. Here’s a quote from research done at the University of Utah:
- the simple but inconvenient act of changing America’s clocks and devices back and forth represents an annual $1.7 billion of lost opportunity cost. This was based on the average American’s hourly wage and an assumption that each person spent some ten minutes changing clocks, watches, and other devices—time that could have been far more productively spent.
Then there’s the medical piece. Turns out there’s a 10% increase in the number of heart attacks in the few days following DST’s start in the spring. Fortunately, I hasten to add, there’s a 10% decrease in them once it’s over in the fall.
So, with evidence against DST mounting, I pick up the mantle. But, what can I, one lonely individual, do? Turns out there’s an organization dedicated to ending DST. It’s called
Check them out, if you want to join my merry little band of
NOTE: They also want to reduce the number of time zones across the US, but I’m sticking with just ending the crazy clock changing twice a year. For now.
From their site I get the final quiz question:
William Willet (1865-1915) is the British builder who was the first to seriously advocate adopting daylight saving time, in his pamphlet “Waste of Daylight” in 1907. When he was asked why he didn’t simply get up an hour earlier, what was Willet’s reply?
B. “Well, I could do that, but I would prefer to condemn thousands of people to die in fiery car crashes.”
C. “But if I did that, how would I be able to mess up the farmers’ schedules, exactly?”
D. “That’s an excellent idea. I withdraw my proposal.”
Check out their site for the answer.
So, how about you? What’s your stand on DST?