As any viewer of National Treasure can tell you, Ben Franklin first came up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time in 1784. What most Americans probably don’t know is that Franklin didn’t actually suggest the system we use today; his suggestion to get up an hour earlier to get more daylight was a punchline in a satire about French workers. Nothing else came of it until years later.
Actual credit for the complete concept of Daylight Saving as a workable system officially goes to George Vernon Hudson, an avid bug collector and scientific explorer who proposed the system in 1895 so that he would have more daylight hours for bug catching after he got off work. Daylight Saving as we know it today wasn’t implemented until World War I; in 1916, Germany began adjusting its standard times to modulate its energy use. The United States adapted to Daylight Saving Time in 1918, and we’ve been living with it ever since. (Unless you live in Arizona. Or Hawaii. Or parts of Indiana.)
Daylight Saving Time in the United States makes changes of one-hour increments in order to shift the working day into the prime daylight hours. This means that in the spring, DST makes a day that is only 23 hours long as we all shift our clocks forward an hour so that we can catch it in the morning. In the fall, DST requires us to set our clocks back an hour, and we inhabit a 25-hour day.
DST has long since become a normal, if inconvenient, part of American and European life. It is a concession to a world which is increasingly obsessed with precise time measurement, scheduling, and global communication. With so many people in so many places involved in business, transactions, and conversations across the globe, it is essential to know what time it is where you’re calling, and how long you have to work things out before the end of the business day where you are. Still, thanks to increasingly precise and speedy technology updates, many people are starting to find Daylight Saving Time not just old-fashioned, but downright unnecessary. The system has had both its supporters and its enemies since it was first enacted.
Logically, DST makes a lot of sense if everyone decides to do it at the same time and in the same way. Just as we have established latitude, longitude, global time zones, and the date line, Daylight Saving is yet another facet of the complex, careful system that supports the logistical infrastructure of global communication. It makes it easier to know what time it will be when you land somewhere, or what part of the afternoon you are trying to conduct business in when you have coworkers in another country. Additionally, it does still provide those few extra hours of precious daylight, if you’re in the right place at the right times.
The problem is that DST is not followed everywhere, and it’s not even followed in all the same ways. Europe, Asia, and America all technically follow Daylight Saving, but they all enact it on different times and different days, which means that the majority of the global business world is slightly out of sync for a few days twice a year. Even then, there are places in the United States that have decided not to follow DST, so crossing the border between Arizona and New Mexico results in local time travel.
Multiple states, including Colorado, have considered legally renouncing Daylight Savings over the years. Places like Michigan went multiple years without observing DST, only to switch back over again. Local business concerns and voter frustrations have led to these discussions and changes in many places, and there is no indication that these issues are going anywhere.
Love it or hate it, Daylight Savings Time is a fascinating point of tension between global awareness, local government, and personal convenience. What are your thoughts? Should DST stay, or should it go? How can we make it better?