Daylight Savings Time: All your questions answered – kind of.

Daylight savings time always causes a love/hate relationship. Some people love it because it brings more hours of daylight and others hate it because in the fall the world graciously grants the earthlings one extra hour of sleep and then in the spring greedily takes it away – boo! But like everything, in theory, there is good reason.  

Spring forward, fall back – get it because in the spring our clocks loose an hour and in the fall they gain an hour, but why? We all seem to follow this practice, but few people know exactly why. The easy answer would be to make better use of natural daylight to better align our working days with the rising and setting of the sun. The ideas of Daylight Savings Time (DST) started in 1895 by New Zealand scientist George Vernon Hudson and British builder William Willett. The two men proposed a two hour time change to occur in October (shift forward) and another two hour time change in March (shift back). People were very intrigued by this idea, but unfortunately there was no follow through. So, in 1905 Willett ditched Hudson and proposed the more logical, not, idea to move the clocks ahead by twenty minutes on every Sunday in April and then do the same to switch them back on every Sunday in September totalling eight different time changes a year – talk about high maintenance clocks!

I don’t know whose side of the clock you are taking but believe it or not Willett’s crazy idea of having eight small time changes a year caught the attention of Robert Pearce (British Member of Parliament). The bill of time change was sent to the House of Commons and was drafted as an official bill in 1909. But, there is always a but, the bill was presented numerous times and opposed by many, especially farmers, so it never made the cut! Bye bye bill!

Years flew past without the implementation of changing clocks until 1916 when the UK changed its first clock to follow DST, which unfortunately happened to be the year after Willett passed away. Aww, as sad as it is that the government never allowed Willett to see his idea become a reality, DST had already become a reality seven years ago. Sorry Willett!

Ontario has beat him to the DST party! In 1908, specifically July 1st, Port Arthur (present day Thunder Bay) residents were flip flopping their clocks back and forth to chase the sunlight. Not long after that Regina (Saskatchewan), Winnipeg, and Brandon (both Manitoba) were doing the same. Just thinking critically, what do these three cities have in common? Hmmm farmers!

Just when you thought things were ironing themselves out and the who did it first debate was being settled, there is more to the story! The world didn’t know Canada was already practicing DST, so Germany decided to join the timely party and popularize the idea with the rest of the world. During the first world war the German Empire and Austria were changing their clocks to minimize the use of artificial light to save fuel for the war efforts – Very logical there! The smarty pants idea was quickly followed by France, the UK, and many more countries. DST was popular during the war but as soon as armistice was signed DST was forgotten.

We still have not reached an agreement about this debacle, so, let’s add some more theories and get to the bottom of this before the end of time. Benjamin Franklin, our good friend that we always call up when we don’t know who to blame. Of course, we give credit to Franklin because in 1784 he described the exact fundamentals of DST in a letter he wrote the editor of the Journal of Paris but forgot the whole actually physically changing your clocks part. He titled his letter “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light”. Wow, that sounds promising! Why would we not believe he is the creator? Well because he was talking about economizing candle usage by forcing people out of bed earlier in the morning. Good joke Mr. Franklin!

What do we have today in our modern world that we don’t owe credit to the Ancient Romans for? It is important to always remember the romans. It is thought that ancient civilizations have been using the practices of DST for centuries, but never even realized it. Roman water clocks follow solar time and self-adjust monthly to account for different daily schedules.  

It is obvious that DST has lots of rich history and is the epitome of the “who did it first debate”. We could say that DST was implemented to save energy, help farmers during harvest season, chase the daylight, or just better the well-being of the earth’s citizens, but to just pick one is wrong because we do not truly know the reasoning behind this grand scheme to force us to run around our houses tediously changing every clock to come back to the first clock and wonder “hmm did I already change this one?”. However, there is scientific evidence to prove the benefits of changing the clocks forward and back to follow the rising and setting pattern of the sun. It makes me wonder, maybe this is all just a big brain game. Who knows? Maybe Father Time.

Remember there is only 24 hours each day and that changing our clocks doesn’t actually make anything longer. DST is also only practiced by 40% of the world’s countries. So, if we quickly do the math: there are 195 sovereign countries recognized by the UN multiplied by 0.40 equals 78 countries who will be changing their clocks back and forward (195 x 0.40 = 78). Countries that are close to the equator do not practice DST because their days length don’t really fluctuate a large degree throughout the year. This is also the case for the countries further up north. Some days are completely dark and others are completely light providing really no reason to change their clocks.

Don’t forget to change your clocks or you will be running an hour late Monday morning! Woohoo!

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