An Indian Civilizational Perspective

History of Day light Savings

This year day light savings had become a major issue since the start in the US was moved up by three weeks. But how did it all begin? Here is a little history on DST..

DST was first mentioned in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to the editors of the Journal of Paris. However, as the satirical article was humorous, it is extremely clear Franklin did not seriously propose that the French adopt it. The mere suggestion that a tax be levied on those who have their shades drawn during daylight hours, or simply that people should get up and go to bed earlier is ludicrous.

It was first seriously proposed by William Willett in the "Waste of Daylight", published in 1907, but he was unable to get the British government to adopt it, despite considerable lobbying.

The idea of DST was first put into practice by the German government during the First World War, between April 30 1916 and October 1 1916. Shortly afterward, the United Kingdom followed suit, first adopting it between May 21 and October 1 1916. On June 17 1917 Newfoundland became the first North American jurisdiction to adopt DST with the passing of the Daylight Saving Act of 1917. On March 19 1918, the U.S. Congress formally established several time zones, which had been in use by railroads and most cities since 1883; at the same time they made DST official, effective March 31, for the remainder of World War I. It was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. The law, however, proved so unpopular, mostly because people rose and went to bed earlier than in current times, that it was repealed in 1919, when Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson‘s veto of the repeal.

Observation of DST

DST is generally a temperate zone practice; day lengths in the tropics do not vary enough to justify DST. The amount of the time shift varies, but one hour is the most common. The dates of the beginning and ending of DST also vary by country. With a few exceptions, switchovers between standard time and DST generally occur in the early hours of a Sunday morning, because doing so then causes less disruption than a change on a weekday would.

DST commonly begins in the northern hemisphere on the last Sunday in March or the first Sunday in April, and ends on the last Sunday in October. However, due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, beginning in 2007, the United States will begin observing DST from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November. (Studies will determine if this remains permanent.) Most of Canada will also observe the new period to avoid possible economic losses from confusion with the United States. Since 2002, the European Union has fixed the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October as start and end dates (European Summer Time).

In the southern hemisphere, the beginning and ending dates are switched; therefore, the time difference between the United Kingdom and Chile may be three, four, or five hours, depending on the time of year.

Rationales for DST

One of the major reasons given for observing DST is energy conservation. Theoretically, the amount of residential electricity needed in evening hours is dependent both on when the sun sets and when people go to bed. Because people tend to observe the same bedtime year-round, by artificially moving sunset one hour later, the amount of energy used is theoretically reduced. A 1975 United States Department of Transportation study showed that DST would theoretically reduce the country’s electricity usage by 1% from March to April, if implemented during these months. These numbers have been supported in Mexico, which began implementing daylight saving time in 1996. Evaluations show national savings of 0.7% of national electric consumption (1.3 billion KWh (TWh)) and reduction of peak load by 500MW.

Part of the reason that it is normally observed only in the early spring, summer, and early autumn instead of the winter months is that the amount of energy saved by experiencing sunset one hour later would be negated by the increased need for artificial morning lighting due to a later sunrise. During the summer most people would wake up after the sun rises, regardless of whether daylight saving time is in effect or not, so there is no increased need for morning lighting to offset the afternoon drop in energy usage. Another reason for not observing daylight saving time in the winter is concern about children walking to school in the dark.

Another argued benefit of DST is increased opportunities for outdoor activities. Most people plan outdoor activities during sunlight hours. Other benefits cited include prevention of traffic injuries (by allowing more people to return home from work or school in daylight), and crime reduction (by reducing people’s risk of being targets of crimes that are more common in dark areas).

When the U.S. went on extended DST in 1974 and 1975 in response to the 1973 energy crisis, Department of Transportation studies found that observing DST in March and April saved 10,000 barrels of oil a day, and prevented about 2,000 traffic injuries and 50 fatalities saving about U.S. $28 million in traffic costs.

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