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Slices of Life - Daylight saving, nighttime snoozing

March 18, 2016
Jill Pertler - Columnist , Traer Star-Clipper

Spring forward; fall back. Twice each year we reset the clocks. In the fall, I relish the extra hour of sleep I think I get because 6:00 a.m. is really 7:00 a.m. - or it feels that way for a couple days at least.

But you know what they say. There's no such thing as a free lunch or free extra hour of sleep. Come spring, it's time to pay the piper and relinquish an hour. Suddenly 7:00 a.m. feels like 6:00 a.m. - for at least a couple days.

Why do we do this to ourselves? (Good folks in Arizona and Hawaii, please ignore the question, since you are smart enough to set your clocks and leave them be.) Daylight saving time. Just what are we saving and when do we save it ??- when we fall back or spring ahead?

I've always been told the practice has to do with farmers. Make hay while the sun shines, and all that jazz. I was misinformed. According to Wiki: "Historically, retailing, sports and tourism interests have favored daylight saving, while agricultural and evening entertainment interests have opposed it." If farmers didn't invent daylight saving time, who did?

Some credit the creation of the phenomenon to Benjamin Franklin, who suggested getting up at sunrise and going to bed at sunset would help save candles. "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Although Mr. Franklin was a practical man and in favor of saving candles, he is not the father of daylight saving time.

That honor goes to a guy in New Zealand named George Hudson. He proposed modern daylight saving time in the 1800s because he was interested in having more daylight after work to pursue his hobby of collecting bugs. Creepy, but true. An Englishman, William Willett, came up with the same idea a few years later because the setting sun was cutting into his evening round of golf. Bogey to that.

Golf and insect-collecting may have been fine and good reasons to spring ahead, but the idea didn't catch on here until there was an even bigger rationale for widespread implementation: war. During World War I, The U.S., Russia and many European countries implemented daylight saving time as a way to conserve coal. (Similar to Ben Franklin's idea, but without the candles.)

The war ended and so did daylight saving time in most places. There was no federal law regulating the practice, which caused confusion between times zones and especially with the transportation industry. Apparently people kept missing their trains. So, in 1967 a federal law resurrected widespread daylight saving time. Individual states could follow certain rules to opt out, but most were all in - where they remain today.

In addition to keeping people from missing their plane or train, daylight saving time saves energy because people naturally sleep later the morning and stay up to all hours of the night (burning more proverbial candles as they do). If the sun is shining later in the day, less energy is needed to light the streets and heat our homes. A 2008 report that undoubtedly required the time and energy of a number of U.S. Department of Energy employees reported a nationwide electricity savings of about 0.03 percent during daylight saving time. Electrifying results for sure.

There you have it: palpable evidence that daylight saving time benefits us. I only wonder why we switch back and forth. If setting our clocks ahead is a good thing, maybe we should just stick with it and save on energy ourselves. You know, the energy it takes to reset the clocks twice a year. I'll light a candle to that.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don't miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

 
 

 

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