Why do we have Daylight Saving Time?

Why do we have Daylight Saving Time?

Dragging a little bit today?  Sleep deprived, perhaps?  Maybe it’s the hour of sleep you lost a couple of days ago when we set our clocks forward for Daylight Saving Time.  What?  You forgot?  So that’s why you’ve been late to work for two days!  But seriously, do you know why we change our clocks twice a year, and the effect it has (or doesn’t have) on the nation?

Some people love that extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day, and others hate losing an hour of sleep and throwing the kids’ schedules all off, and wonder why we do it.  Obviously, it has to do with taking advantage of the natural lengthening of the day as our hemisphere tilts towards the sun in the spring.  Ben Franklin suggested it as a way to save on candles in the evening, but it was many years later, in 1918, that it became law for a year to help cut the use of evening electricity during World War I.  World War II saw the return of Daylight Saving for similar reasons.  But it wasn’t til 1966 that the Uniform Time Act established nationwide time change from the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October.  There have been a number of tweaks and adjustments to its length, but as of 2007, Daylight Saving Time was extended to begin on the second Sunday of March and end on the first Sunday of November.
Daylight Saving Time tends to be more popular on the western sides of time zones, where the effect of moving the clock up by an hour provides more evening light than on the eastern sides.  Farmers are amongst the naysayers as they already get up very early in the dark, and the time change exacerbates that.  Add to that the fact that farm animals don’t wear watches, and are thoroughly uninterested in changing their habits (such as milking time for cows) just because Farmer Brown adjusted his kitchen clock.  So given that the main practical reason for all this disruption is conservation, are we really getting a payback?  It turns out that while we do save significant electricity overall by pushing the dark back, people use that extra hour to do a lot of running around taking care of business or going to someplace to play, so the extra gas burned has a negative effect.  For many of those who just go home after work, there is an extra hour of running the AC, which further eats into the energy advantage.  But despite the debate over the energy savings, people really seem to get a kick out of that later light, so we’ll probably keep it up.  However, if you’re in the “hate it” camp, there is a solution!  You can move!  For reasons of excessive evening heat in Arizona, and greater proximity to the equator in Hawaii (thus little change year-round in daylight length), the advantages of daylight saving are diminished and the locals in those two states have voted not to observe the time change.

Fun fact:  The Navajo Nation (a significant chunk of NE Arizona), does change to Daylight Saving Time each year.  This is due to the fact that their large reservation extends onto two other states.  However the Hopi reservation, which is within the Navajo reservation, follows Arizona’s lead and does not observe the time change – yet another example of how complicated the world of time observation can be.

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