Opinion » Editorial

Push the snooze button



I don't know about you, but I am not "springing ahead" as the well-used adage for Daylight Saving Time (DST) suggests we should be.

I'm dragging myself out of bed, bleary-eyed in the near-total darkness that I just rejoiced at losing last week, thanks to the change.

I do have to admit, however, that I love the extra hour of light in the evening.

Every year at this time, I find myself so annoyed by the very precocity of this change to my internal clock—especially when I consider that its Canadian roots lie not in some medical science or psychologists studying our mental states or even a belief system. It arose out of, wait for it, our desire as a nation to be economically and socially aligned with our great neighbour to the south, the U.S. of A.

So, America introduced DST for altruistic human-based reasons right?

Ah, no. The states of America fell in line behind a post-First-World-War Europe, which adopted this change.

But the roots go back even further. In fact, the very first person known to have suggested the idea was George Hudson, an entomologist from New Zealand. In 1895, he proposed a two-hour time shift so he'd have more after-work hours of sunshine to go bug hunting in the summer.

(Honestly, I'm not making this up. See this excellent history of the subject—Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time by David Prerau.)

Next up was British builder William Willett (the great-great-grandfather of Coldplay frontman Chris Martin). He independently hit on the idea while out horseback riding and proposed it to England's Parliament as a way to prevent the nation from wasting daylight. His idea was championed by Sir Winston Churchill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—but was initially rejected by the British government. Willett kept arguing for the concept up until his death in 1915.

As war continued, the Germans began to search for a way to conserve energy (consider coal was a major energy source at that time) and caught on to Willett's idea and adopted it forthwith.

Soon, England and almost every other country that fought in the First World War followed suit. So did the United States: On March 9, 1918, Congress enacted its first daylight saving law.

It was a big hit—well at least as far as business was concerned. Remember, we are talking about America, where the national dream is measured in dollars in the bank.

Wall Street loved overlapping with London financial markets and retailers loved that people spent more on their way home from work just because it was light out.

And how do we get to the shops? We drive, so gasoline companies loved DST too.

Everyone loved it so much in 2007 it was decided to move it from April to March in the U.S. One of those groups lobbying for this change was the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, a lobbying group for convenience stores. In 2010, Jeff Miller, the group's chairman at the time, said the industry had added an estimated US$1 billion in annual sales thanks to the change.

(OK, not everyone loved it. Many people worried that an extra hour of light in the evening would dry up and brown their lawns, or that cows would become confused and not give as much milk.)

The idea of saving energy through DST really has no hold anymore in most places. Geographically, it is popular in the latitudes that have the great seasonal changes in daylight, as we all love as much sun as we can get. But is this enough reason to keep going with DST?

Last week, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced that it might be time to ditch the switch since the U.S. is looking at this idea as well. He's written to the governors of the three states, (California, Washington and Oregon) asking for updates on their views about time changes. And we know the European Union is pushing to end the time change as well, though Brexit might complicate things.

Even the Union of B.C. Municipalities has been pushing to end the time change for several years and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce is also supportive.

There are even a host of studies suggesting that scrapping the change might impact everything from a spike in heart attacks possibly due to DST, to a substantial increase in cyberloafing in the days following our loss of one hour's sleep.

If only we were more like our smartphones and adapted seamlessly to this change.

No, wait, that was my lack of sleep talking. The last thing the world needs is anyone being as invasive as cell phone technology.