Daylight Saving Time: A Controversial Practice
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a practice observed in over 70 countries worldwide, including the United States, where it was first implemented nationally in 1918 as a wartime effort to conserve fuel. The idea was to add an extra hour of sunlight to the day, reducing the need for artificial light. However, DST has been a subject of debate and controversy since its inception.
The concept of DST was first proposed by American polymath Benjamin Franklin in 1784, who suggested that waking up earlier in the summer would economize on candle usage. However, it wasn't until 1916, during World War I, that DST was first introduced in Germany as an energy-saving measure. The United States followed suit in 1918, implementing DST as a wartime effort. However, it was repealed a year later and then maintained by some individual localities until 1966 when the Uniform Time Act made DST consistent nationwide.
Proponents of DST argue that the practice has several benefits. One of the primary advantages is that it provides longer evenings, which can motivate people to get out of the house. The extra hour of daylight can be used for outdoor recreation like golf, soccer, baseball, running, etc., potentially counteracting the sedentary lifestyle of modern living. The tourism industry also profits from brighter evenings as longer evenings give people more time to go shopping, to restaurants, or to other events, boosting the local economy.
Despite its benefits, DST has been widely criticized. Most studies show that its energy savings are only negligible, and some have even found that costs are higher since people in hot climates are more apt to use air conditioners in the daytime. Moreover, changing the time, even if it is only by one hour, disrupts our body clocks or circadian rhythm. For most people, the resulting tiredness is simply an inconvenience. For some, however, the time change can have more serious consequences to their health. Studies link the lack of sleep at the start of DST to car accidents, workplace injuries, suicide, and miscarriages.
In recent years, lawmakers have talked as if this timeworn tradition might be on its last legs. A raft of bills on the federal and state levels are taking aim at the biannual time changes. In March 2022, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, intending to make daylight saving time permanent starting in spring of 2023. However, the bill failed to be taken up in the House, and the tradition remains intact for now.