Monday, November 8, 2010

Questioning the Validity of Daylight Savings

From the Calgary Herald.

"How did something as simple as making summer evenings a little longer come to this? Blame the U.S. government, for starters. In 2007, the U.S. adjusted the dates of daylight saving time to extend longer into the fall in an effort to save energy by staving off darkness for a little while longer. Canada followed suit (hence Calgary's bright Halloweens of late), which seemed to kick off a renewed debate about the issue.

Japan, which ditched daylight saving time as soon as Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the American occupation left Tokyo in 1951, is now mulling it again. John Alkire of Morgan Stanley believes that adopting daylight saving time would mean a new dawn for the Japanese economy. One extra hour of sunlight every evening for seven months would boost domestic consumption, as people leave work for bars, restaurants, shopping and golf. Setting the clock ahead one hour in the summer is credited with reducing traffic accidents and crime; boosting energy efficiency as people use less lighting and heating; and even improving health as people are radiated with vitamin D from the sun.

"The best part is that it doesn't cost anything," says Alkire. "It's a real fiscal stimulus without any money."

I was always taught that was for the farmers' benefit--more daylight meant more work in the fields that could get done. But then, with today's driverless computerized GPS-guided tractors and other farm machinery, what do they need daylight for exactly?

Answer: it wasn't for the farmers--it was to increase retail buying during the Depression and WWII. Factory workers would walk home from the job, and would shop more on the way home with daylight still out. Now, it's after-work time from ANY job that gets us to spend as long as the sun's still out, and a surprising number of us still spend that time in drive-thru lines getting dinner.


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