Daylight Saving Time

Why don’t we observe Daylight Saving Time with the rest of the world?

Last week the clocks changed in a whole slew of countries, including practically all of Europe and our neighbor Mexico. But we in the United States, will wait a week to change our clocks, which we will do on November 1, 2015.

So for this one week, we’re only four hours away from Ireland instead of five, five hours from Poland instead of six, and so forth.

We already dropped the U in color, the Y in tire, and so forth (and for very logical reasons – that U is just unnecessary). We have clung to inches and miles and quarts — although we sometimes drink out of 2-liters and run 5K race. However, when it comes to Daylight Saving Time, why don’t we just turn our clocks in time with the rest of the world?

To be fair, some other countries are also waiting until next week, including our neighbors Haiti, Cuba, and Canada. Maybe, however, they have succumbed to US influence to avoid confusion.

Whose idea was it to set our clocks back?

Daylight Saving Time is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  Although he is not actually its founder, he did discover the value of waking early in the summertime.  In an 1874 public letter in Paris, where he lived at the time, he joked that the city should tax windows and ration candles to force people to wake early.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. —Ben Franklin

In the late 1800s, George Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist, enjoyed going outside — while the sun was still shining — to collect insects. He authored two papers suggesting a time change.

Nothing really happened.

A few  years later, in England, a builder named William Willett — who incidentally is the great-great-grandfather of Chris Martin from Coldplay — was riding his horse on a summer morning and noticed that many people had not yet raised the blinds on their windows.  By still sleeping, they were wasting the sunlight.

He proposed a solution — to advance the clock in the summer. He proposed advancing the clocks by 80 minutes in four incremental steps, 20 minutes each time, during April and reversed the same way during September.

(Just pause for a moment. Can you imagine going through eight time changes a year?)

For some reason, William Willette was extremely motivated to see the government adopt his idea.  Who knows why he was not purely satisfied by just waking early on his own and why he wanted the rest of the world to wake early with him.  But he was motivated.

The idea made it in and out of Parliament. Winston Churchill even promoted it at one time.

Sadly, Willette died without seeing Daylight Saving Time become a reality.

In World War I, Germany was the first to implement a time change.  The purpose was to conserve coal during wartime. Other countries copied.

After the war, Daylight Saving Time came and went.  It was not until the 1970s energy crisis when it became widely adopted.

Why is the United States off kilter from Europe?

During the 1973 oil embargo, Congress decided that it would try out Daylight Saving Time to see if it resulted in overall fuel savings.  It worked — a little. Of course, switching from cars to bicycles would have worked much better. But it was a tiny step. So it stuck.

In 1986 Congress changed the beginning of Daylight Saving Time to the first Sunday in April and having the end remain the last Sunday in October.

In 2005, there was yet another push to conserve energy. Again, swapping bicycles for cars would have moved mountains.  However, Congress decided to make Daylight Saving Time longer by starting it in in March, and ending it in November.

Interestingly, a University of California study found that this act of extending Daylight Saving Time actually increased energy consumption in Indiana because, although people were not using their lights as much, they were using more heating or cooling.

What’s the Point in Florida?

In Florida, Daylight Saving Time is not as useful.  We’re closer to the equator and lack the day length fluctuations of our Northern counterparts.  Without Daylight Saving Time, Miami, for instance, would have similar sunrise and sunset times year round.

In 2008, when he was in the Florida Senate, Bill Posey introduced a bill to abolish Daylight Saving Time in Florida. The idea is not as crazy as you might think.  People in Arizona (except the Navajo Nation), Hawaii, and Puerto Rico completely avoid it.  Unsurprisingly, however, and probably because of the huge reliance on tourists in Florida, the bill did not pass.

Regardless, this Saturday, we in the United States — including Florida — with the exception of Arizona, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, will change our clocks back.

Despite the confusion, wherever — whenever — we are, we can always remember:

It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. . . .