Daylight Savings Time (DST) is simply a standard where a region all moves their clocks forward in the summer in order to have more sunlight hours after a typical workday. The idea for DST was conceived by people who enjoyed their after-work daylight hours. They simply wanted to spend more time bug collecting or playing golf after they finished working.
But DST was not adopted by nations until war time. The hope was that countries could save coal by avoiding heating and lighting residences since people would get home with more daylight. The motivation was to save energy. After war time many nations stopped using DST, but much of the US and Europe adopted it more permanently in the 1970s due to worries over energy crises.
I originally thought that DST had something to do with helping farmers, but they tend to advocate against it. Summer nighttime entertainers also didn’t like the time change since they have to push back showtimes to when people go to bed. But some industries enjoyed the new opportunity. Bottom line, some people like it and others don’t. The debate was so strong in some places that laws were passed “to make public display of a clock showing any time save Eastern Standard punishable by $100 or ten days in prison.”
Ultimately, it’s unclear whether DST actually even saves energy. It might have worked when a large amount of electricity was used for lighting, but these days lighting is far cheaper and not as significant a factor. And since energy is so cheap, most people just use more energy in the mornings at home and less in the evenings. The net effect varies by the geography and society. DST also may increase health risks. The first six days after a change, as people readjust to their new time schedules, might be more dangerous.
So what should we do?
These ideas will probably never happen, but it’s fun to speculate.
First option, let’s just stop using DST. This might avoid the health detriments and allow us to measure a before and after to see if there are any energy benefits.
Second option, let’s just never stop using DST. We just had our “spring forward” so in the fall, we just don’t “fall back.” Again, we probably avoid health detriments and can test whether energy is saved.
Third option, we adopt a continuous time spectrum instead of time zones. Cities would operate under the same time “zone” since every 13 miles driven due east or west would only change your local time by one minute. Almost everyone has GPS in their phones, so if you travel between cities your phone clock would automatically adjust. Direction software would account for the time change between destinations just like they account for traffic. Plane and train ETAs already adjust for time zones. The transition would be smooth. The only difference is if you on the west coast call your friend on the east coast, you don’t know if it’s exactly three hours later or only two and a half. This idea could cause more health problems since people would stress about the initial change even though they wouldn’t really be affected. Then five years into the change, everyone could talk about how it was better when they were young.
Fourth option, we stop DST and society adopts a work week with fewer hours because people realize how much money they waste on junk. People enjoy more daylight hours throughout the whole year and get more sleep. Health outcomes improve because people spend less time working and more time in the sun, doing leisure activities, and sleeping. Energy consumption decreases because people buy less crap and sleep more reducing home energy use. It’s a win-win.
How would you change DST?