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Shining light on Daylight Saving Time

Mar 14, 2024 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish

I am writing this after going through the annual springtime ritual of turning clocks ahead an hour as part of the Daylight Saving Time (DST) convention. Later this year in the fall I will be reversing the process, turning clocks back an hour. These annual rituals ostensibly are to allow us to take advantage of the longer hours of daylight that happen in the summertime. There are also arguments that doing so results in significant savings in energy consumption, though reliable evidence as to that claim remains questionable.

Most people assume that the DST convention is universal throughout the world, but that is not so. Most of Africa, Asia, South America and Australia do not follow this practice, which is followed primarily by European and North American countries. Most but not all of the Canadian provinces and territories subscribe to DST. Yukon, Saskatchewan and parts of B.C., Nunavut, Ontario and Quebec have opted out of the practice. In the U.S., Arizona and Hawaii have also opted out of observing DST.

Ukraine follows the example of the EU, all of whose countries observe DST. In Africa, only Egypt follows the DST conventions. None of the Middle Eastern or Asian countries do.

The implementation of DST is a relatively new phenomenon having emerged a little over a century ago. The first recorded proposal for the establishment of DST was made by a New Zealand entomologist by the name of George Hudson in 1895. A bill to introduce DST was put before the British Parliament in 1908 but failed to pass. During that same year, the city of Port Arthur in Canada (later to become Thunder Bay) became the first geographic location to implement DST, but it was a limited local affair. Most of Europe formally adopted DST between 1916 and 1918, with the U.S. following suit in 1918, though it was only implemented as a temporary wartime measure, and it was only made permanent in 1966 when the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Time Act. Canada soon followed suit, though a number of provinces, cities and territories have chosen to not follow the practice.

DST has been controversial since the earliest days of its adoption. Several major religions, particularly the Muslims and Jews, have major issues with it, as it complicates their daily prayer schedules.

Many scientists have questioned the energy savings claims of DST, with one major study showing that the savings amount to at most 0.3%, which is largely negated by increased costs caused by DST in other areas. There are also some studies that have shown that the time changes actually increase energy costs.

The medical community has also voiced concerns that DST negatively impacts the bodies natural circadian rhythms, causing adverse health effects. There is also credible evidence that the clock shifts disrupt concentration and focus, leading to a measurable increase in traffic and other accidents. There is also a measurable increase in the incidence of heart attacks, suicides and other medically related deaths in the days that follow the clock changes.

Many countries throughout the world are seriously considering eliminating the spring and fall adjustments called for by DST. The European Union voted back in 2019 to eliminate DST, but the move remains on the back burner and has not been implemented to date. In the U.S., similar legislation was passed by the Senate in 2022 but was not ratified by the House of Congress. In November 2022, the American Medical Association called on the U.S. government to end DST.

In Canada, timekeeping falls under provincial jurisdiction, and though most provinces and territories observe DST, the practice is being seriously reviewed. A recent petition to end DST in Canada received over 75,000 signatures. The Ontario legislature passed a bill in 2020 to end DST, but only on the condition that the province of Quebec and the neighbouring state of New York did the same. So far, those neighbours have declined to do so. British Columbia passed a similar bill in 2019, but also delayed implementation until such a move cold be synchronized with the neighbouring states of Washington, Oregon and California.

It is safe to say that the DST experiment has produced mixed results in terms of improving quality of life and other benefits, and may be causing significant health and economic harm. As a result, I am pretty sure that its days are likely numbered.

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