Every year, people go to sleep and wake knowing that an hour of their day has been taken away during spring, only to awake to an extra hour added to their day during fall. It is an odd practice that many have been questioning for quite some time.
In 2012 a Rasmussen Reports survey of 1000 Americans found that around 40% thought Daylight Saving Time is worthless, 127,000 people have petitioned Congress to end DST, and it is observed by fewer than 40% of the world’s countries. Yet, it is still around.
The start of the clock changes can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin, who decided that resetting clocks was a way to help conserve energy. He thought that giving people an extra hour of daylight would lead to a decrease in lighting usage. Not entirely outrageous, yet Franklin’s proposal did not see the light of day (I had to) until more than a century later. Germany came on board in order to conserve fuel during World War I in May of 1916, the rest of Europe followed shortly thereafter, and the United States joined the DST party in 1918.
After World War I ended, farmers in the U.S. wished to do away with DST due to a loss of an hour of morning light and it was abolished. Until World War II that is, when Franklin Roosevelt re-established DST, calling it “War Time”. When WWII ended, states and cities in the United States could choose whether to observe DST, which lead to chaos. Apparently, “if one took a 35-mile bus ride from Moundsville, West Virginia, to Steubenville, Ohio, he or she would pass through no fewer than seven time changes”. That is ultimately why Congress enacted the Uniform Time Act in 1966, or the law mandating each state to follow a uniform protocol.
As of 2007, the United States begins DST on the second Sunday of March, moving their clocks an hour forward, and stops doing so on the first Sunday of November, moving the clocks an hour backward. Both are completed at 2 am due to the practicality of this time.
If the history of DST did not seem complicated enough, its effects certainly might.
According to an article in Business Insider, DST is a problematic practice due to the existence of both pros and cons. On the one hand, it can increase gasoline consumption as evening activities increase with extra daylight, lead to people using less electricity for light but more for air conditioning during early evenings (as in Indiana where DST was implemented in 2006), and disrupt one’s sleep, mood, metabolism and other bodily functions. One the other hand, a report to Congress from 2008 showed that electricity savings since the extension of DST amounted to $130 million per year (if electricity costs 10 cents per kilowatt), and more daylight inspires people to go out and spend more money.
Despite its complicated nature, almost all of the United States continues to observe DST, with the exception of Hawaii and most of Arizona (excluding Navajo and Hopi reservations). It seems as though the decision to continue this practice comes down to legislature costs and potential financial profits for many industries.
As for the rest of the world, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands skips DST, while areas of Brazil and Chile do follow it. Most of Africa opts out of DST with the exceptions of Namibia, Morocco and Western Sahara, and Australia is divided when it comes to this matter. Meanwhile China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and India do not observe DST and neither does Iceland, despite the rest of Europe doing so. The Time and Date website provides a full list of countries with their DST start and end dates (if those exist).
For the United States, the next cycle begins March 11, 2018. It is doubtful that any changes will take place until then so let’s brace ourselves for another year of forth-and-back weirdness.