By PAT WATSON
Blame American Benjamin Franklin for germinating the idea, back in the late 1700s, that has become the annual torment of trying to get out of bed an hour earlier between March and November. This annual discomfort commonly referred to as “Daylight Saving Time” or DST (or incorrectly, Daylight Savings Time) will again make its unwelcome presence felt as of this coming Sunday. That is, when 1 a.m. becomes 2 a.m. in an attempt to save daylight time.
One of the most grating messages that weather forecasters and others foist on us unbelievers is that DST gives us an extra hour of daylight. That man has done what God cannot do is truly a miracle since to add an extra hour of daylight is to go beyond the current parameters of nature.
In fact, we experience greater hours of sunlight as a result of the rotational relationship between the Sun and the Earth, more precisely, because the tilt of the Earth as it moves around the Sun results in greater exposure to the Sun at certain times over the course of a 12-month period.
Living in the Northern Hemisphere means we experience increasing hours of sunlight as the year progresses from March through June; thereafter the hours of sunlight begin once again to diminish. For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere the same occurrence can be observed from September to December. Such is the phenomenon.
Yet, there are those who would like to play at adding an extra hour of daylight; or just as absurdly, daylight saving.
There are a few things in this reality that can never be saved, no matter how we word it. One is time; you can use less of it or more of it, but time cannot be saved. The other is energy of any kind, and that includes light.
Perhaps a better term would be ‘annual time shifting’. Although, by any name, it is still an uncomfortable adjustment, not the least for people who struggle with sleep disorders, or those of us who are not ‘morning people’. While early birds and night owls generally adjust to the shift in waking time, it can take weeks for those who are not morning people to adjust, finding them in the meantime sleep deprived and functioning less well as a result.
Further, the rate of heart attacks actually increases in the first few weeks following the movement of the clock one hour ahead. Driving while sleep deprived is also a problem. Farmers have registered their complaints since the sudden change in schedule has an unsettling effect on their animals, while parents worry about sending their children off to school in the dim light of dawn.
People living in parts of Northern Ontario – Pickle Lake, New Osnaburgh and Atikokan for example – do not go through this annual adjustment. They are located in the Central Time Zone and are already one hour ahead, but the point is they do not have to struggle with the annual change. It’s the same in Northern Quebec and Saskatchewan where DST is not observed.
The rest of us now spend close to eight months – from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November – in this shifted time period when we have the maximum amount of sun exposure this region gets, last year’s disappointing summer notwithstanding. So if the reason for shifting the time is so that we can have more time awake during the sunniest time of the year, why not just maintain the time year round?
To be fair, the modern-day rationale for the time shift is environmental. Before the current period of DST, which began in 2007, the change ran from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October, but U.S. legislators extended the time to reduce energy consumption, and Ontario followed suit.
But, given the amount of energy used by office and other commercial buildings during the summer for air conditioning that premise is highly debatable since increased levels of smog in the summer time is but one by-product. In fact, historically it was the business sector that advocated for this annual change, and as the saying goes, what’s good for business is bad for people and vise versa, so hands up all who want their lost hour of sleep back.
On a note of TTC change…
Maybe there’s a pep talk taking place at morning meetings at the Toronto Transit Commission because these days a person getting on a bus or streetcar is more likely than not to be greeted by the driver with ‘Hello’ or ‘Good day’. Great. Now, about those incessant delays…