Shortcuts / 02 October 2019

Daylight Saving Time

Turns out there’s a long history of people messing with time. In this episode we’re talking daylight saving time. We’ll get you across the reasons it came about in the first place, the countries who use it and the great daylight savings debate here in Australia.

What is Daylight Saving Time?
Typically clocks are brought forward an hour during the summer months in order to maximise the number of daylight hours in the evening. This means we lose one hour of sleep but gain more sunlight hours in the summer, and gain an hour of sleep when we turn the clocks back at the end of the season.

How did it come about?
One of America’s Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin, British-born Kiwi man George Hudson and William Willett (aka the great-great grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin) all advocated for daylight savings in the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s. 

The big breakthrough came during WWI when states in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary became the first to enact daylight saving time in 1916 in order to conserve coal during WWI. Britain, most of its allies and other European countries soon followed, with Australia adopting DST in 1917 and the US following suit in 1918. Although most countries, including Australia, ended up abandoning DST in the years after the war, it was once more widely adopted across the Americas and Europe during WWII, and by the major industrial regions during the Energy Crisis of the 1970s when there were significant petroleum shortages.

When did Australia settle on it?
In Australia, Tasmania led the charge for a permanent adoption of DST in 1967 in order to save energy and water. By 1972, the rest of the country had adopted DST, except WA, Queensland and the Northern Territory, which remains the same today. 

Which countries don’t have daylight saving time?
Countries located near the equator, such as those in Asia and Africa, generally don’t observe DST because the sunlight hours do not fluctuate enough during the seasons to justify using it. On the other hand, regions with higher latitudes such as Iceland and Alaska also don’t observe DST because the sunlight hours vary so much in different seasons the manipulation of clocks by an hour or two won’t make much difference. Most Muslim-majority countries also don’t observe DST as it causes difficulties during the month of Ramadan, where no food is allowed to be eaten between sunrise and sunset. 

What’s the argument for daylight saving time?
Proponents argue that DST saves energy, encourages people to get outside in the evenings during summer, decreases the occurrence of robbery and sexual assault, and is good for retailers.

And against?
Opponents point to the lack of evidence showing DST actually reduces energy consumption, and argue that changing the clocks two times a year is bad for the economy and for people’s health, disrupting sleep patterns and increasing the risk of heart attack, car accidents and industrial accidents.

Squiz recommends:
John Oliver – Daylight Saving Why is this still a thing?”
Thrive Global – Sleep Tips

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