Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why We Really Hate Daylight Savings: A Theory

According to poll I ran across on the Internet, 71% of people want to do away with daylight savings time. This was a very unscientific poll on a radio station's website, but I am inclined to credit it as being an accurate reflection of popular opinion. I also found this rant on-line, which was evidently written a couple of years ago:
I simply don't like Daylight Savings Time. I know I am not alone. I have found that there are a growing number of people who share my disdain and I think it is time we do something about it. Come out of the closet. Write your Congressman. Stand up and be counted and maybe, just maybe, this October, (a month before the Presidential election) we can just turn the clock back a half an hour and forget the whole darn thing.
Of course, rather than take the advice of this blogger, Congress actually extended daylight savings time. On some levels, this is astounding. I can't think of any other issue where our government has acted so out of touch with its constituency. People grumble and complain around April 15 every year, yet most deep down acknowledge that taxes are necessary. However, when people grumble and complain about Daylight Savings, they by and large really don't see a benefit to it.

Many argue that the economic reasons for which the policy was created are now obsolete. Our economic productivity is now for the most part free from reliance on natural sunlight. Ergo, they say, we should dispense with the inconvenience of messing with the clocks twice a year.

I would tend to agree with that logic if I agreed with the premise that economic reasons are the only impetus for the policy. But I don't. Although 71% of people don't like Daylight Savings, I think an even higher percentage like having long days. So, their argument goes, why not have DST year round? The answer to that question is that during the winter months the cost outweighs the benefit: the benefit of longer days is compromised by the cost of having darkness until mid-morning. In the summer months, the benefit outweighs the cost, since even with DST, dawn occurs earlier. I think you can quibble over what weekend in the spring constitutes the best time to change, but I don't see how you can argue the basic facts.

So why is there so much opposition to Daylight Savings? Part of the explanation may be that it's been around long enough that we don't know what life would actually be like without it, so we don't know how convenient it actually is. The thing that bothers me about this, though, is that familiarity should lead to conservatism. If we don't know anything different, why would we be so eager to change to the unknown?

Here's one theory: I think our dislike of DST has the same roots as Al Gore's current wave of popularity. We have a deep-seated fear of exerting too much control over nature. When changing settings on clocks, it feels like we are artificially trying to cheat time. We know we can't do this, so we may actually have a superstitious fear of retribution for attempting to do so. Naturally, such a superstition may be repressed, but finds itself returning in the form of an illogical dislike of a truly good thing.

Fascinatingly, one of the most ubiquitous and popular songs of 2003 was "Clocks" by Coldplay. It contained lines like "Lights go out and I can't be saved," "Confusion that never stops/The closing walls and the ticking clocks," and, "Am I part of the cure/or am I part of the disease?"

Why would Coldplay singer Chris Martin wonder if he was the cure or the disease? Perhaps he's still trying to work out an inter generational guilt. After all, his great-great grandfather William Willett invented Daylight Savings Time.


Anonymous Your Dad said...

Are you aware that Daylight Savings Time was extended through the winter of 1973-1974? That was the first Arab oil embargo, and it was done to "save energy". That would contradict your theory of a net loss of DST in winter, but back then folks were pretty reactionary in their response to gas going from 25 cents to a dollar a gallon, and facts didn't necessarily prevail. I remember reading about some guy that was pulled over for driving on the interstate at night without headlights. It seems he had driven completely across Ohio and was well into Indiana before he was stopped. When asked his reason for doing so, he stated he was saving gas by not having his headlights on. Now, I've never really calculated what the additional load of 10-15 amps DC on an alternator will exert on an engine, and what the resulting extra fuel consumption is, but I think it illustrates my observation that some people's responses to situations are more shoot from the hip than calculated. So, as I wrap up this post, I can shut the lights off an hour earlier tonight, and turn them on an hour earlier tomorrow morning, but then I have to figure out what to do about the computer that I'm typing this on, that says it's 9:05 PM, while my cell phione tells me it's 10:05 PM...

10:07 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

We don't have DST here in the boonies of Saskatchewan.


2:59 PM  
Blogger Heidi said...

whats a boonies? isn't that a movie?

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would again like to say...

i like pie

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would again like to say...

i like pie

2:15 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

the movie is the goonies.

the boonies are where we live heidi. we live in the sticks.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

huh? we live there?

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the time change. IT seems i get more done during the day. I hate In OCT it gets dark at 6"00. I rather lose an hour of sleep then than gain when it stays ligher outside longer.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Brandon Stallings said...

i think people are too lazy to get up and change their clocks an hour ahead or an hour behind. We've been doing it so long. Why change a habit?

8:34 PM  

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