Let’s Quit Daylight Savings Time!

Today is the day that those of us in the United States put our clocks forward by one hour, for reasons that most people would probably struggle to identify. Farmers? Money? Schoolchildren? Surely some rational reason backed up by science?

Daylight Savings Time started in Germany in 1916, just a few years after Adolf Hitler moved there. Coincidence? Yes: Hitler had nothing to do with DST. But as you adjust to waking up an hour earlier over the next month, it’ll feel good to blame someone specific and easily hateable.

The original rationale was energy savings and happiness. With longer days, you can wake up earlier with the sun and then have more daylight after you finish work during which you can go outside and enjoy your life. Waking up later and coming home from work as the sun is going down means that more people would stay inside burning coal in the evenings before bed.

These days, the energy savings are less clear, maybe because no one goes outside anymore and instead spends even sunny days sitting inside watching Netflix and playing video games. Or maybe that’s just my view since I live in San Francisco and it’s been raining for the past month. Thanks, El Nino.

Speaking of California, a lawmaker here has just proposed that we join Hawaii, most of Arizona, and some Amish communities by forgoing Daylight Savings Time. This has some economists and a lot of farmers very excited. I know, a lot of people think farmers are in favor of Daylight Savings Time, but it actually makes zero sense for anyone whose job solely rests on the internal clocks of plants and animals who have no respect for human time tinkering.

By ending DST, we would actually be saving on all the lost productivity of people groggily adjusting to the new time. We’d probably see fewer adverse health effects that come from time changes, like heart attacks and maybe even suicide. And several industries would save millions of dollars, like the airlines who waste a huge amount of money dealing with all the confusion over what time it is wherever people are going.

DST may still have some benefits though, like encouraging more people to exercise and be physically active when they have more sunshine. We also might get more Vitamin D. And personally speaking, I am happiest on long, bright summer evenings.

Retailers love DST, too, because having more daylight after work means that we’re more likely to go out, gas up our cars, and buy things.

That’s why I have an even better solution than having individual states like California and Utah propose to end DST–make DST permanent, year-round. Yes, you’ll have to get up in the dark to go to work in the winter, but you probably already do that, anyway. We’ll still get our beautiful summer evenings, and we won’t have to deal with the ill effects and confusion of changing times.

It makes perfect sense, so I look forward to this solution being instituted by the United States soon. Probably around the same time we switch to metric. Any minute now.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Permanent DST? So we move midnight to 01:00 and noon to 13:00 because we have to fool ourselves into getting up an hour earlier? Seriously Rebecca… Does that even make sense? I don’t care for DST but making it permanent is just ridiculous. Why not double DST so we can get a really early start on the day? Or triple DST so we get plenty of sunshine.

  2. Getting rid of DST – or making it permanent – is probably a lot more likely than switching to metric for one simple reason: For the vast majority of people, it doesn’t require any effort at changing anything. You actually get to stop changing something. Sure, some programs will have to be rewritten, but that’s minor compared to everything that would need to be changed to switch to the metric system (from road signs to the education system).

    1. Yep! Metric’s easier, but conservatism reigns. Even though we do drink soda from two-liter bottles (containing grams of sugar, albeit something like 26 g per cup) and anyone who’s ever been in the military uses klicks and we all end up using metric for smaller units like the thickness of garbage bags in fractions of a millimeter* (strangely, the capacity is still in gallons).

      *a good argument for a unit equal to 10^-4 m is the thickness of garbage bags. It’s mundane enough, and it would be easier to say 7 of that than 0.7 mm or 700 ?m.

      See also QWERTY versus DVORAK. Or how one of the first things the Bolshevik regime did was switch to the Gregorian calendar. Say, are any British users here old enough to remember Decimal Day and how that worked out? Or any Swedish users old enough to remember Högertrafikomläggningen?

      Anyway, getting rid of DST is actually easier than getting rid of the weird metric/imperial hybrid. (Think of all the times we’ve been burned by DST.)

  3. If this happens, I’m going to have to insist that New England switch to Atlantic Time (which I want anyway).

  4. Blecch. Hate light, blinding, love night. Also, hate extra $pending for AC late into the evening. Blecch.

  5. You are already switching to metric, just rather more slowly than the rest of the world. Pretty much any manufactured good not made in or specifically for the US is designed in metric, NASA uses metric. The reason imperial still exists side by side is because it can. I can use metric and imperial fasteners, I just need two sets of everything.

    Time is different because it is all or nothing. But the real reason that there is interest in the California situation is that there is a sizable chance of a ballot initiative and if California was to switch that would likely start a domino effect.

    1. Yep, the US and Canada do use metric, but the US uses imperial more than Canada, which uses imperial more than Britain. (Canadians mostly use imperial to measure themselves. Of course, we still use metric to measure ourselves too, e.g. mg/dL of cholesterol, sugar, etc.)

      What rankles me most is how some (mostly older) Americans seem to think any deviation from 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is abnormal, even though that’s taking something that was two significant figures (37 degrees Celsius) and making it three, essentially adding precision that didn’t exist.

  6. Yesssssssss. Make it permanent, this is something I have long subscribed to as well. I like long days and it’s the change back to standard time what bites me every year. Why do we voluntarily shorten the evening end of winter? It’s too dark too early already!

  7. Make it permanent or stop doing it – either way, getting rid of the switching is a good thing.

    The whole point of having standardized timezones is to enable scheduling between people or groups that are located at different parts of the globe.

    Daylight savings time plays hob with that.

    DST made a bit more sense when the world was less inter-connected. But in the modern age we’re more inter-connected than ever before.

    If I’m in New Zealand (NZST +12 GMT, NZDT +13 GMT) and I have a meeting with someone in the US (EST -5 GMT, EDT -4 GMT), then the range of time differences can be 18 hours, 17 hours, or 16 hours depending on the time of the year. This is because New Zealand and American states start and end daylight savings time at different times of the year.

    The situation gets even crazier once you add in a third, fourth or fifth party that are in different countries again.

    Daylight savings time makes no sense in the modern world.

    1. The fact that China, a country that should have 5 time zones, uses only one proves that time zones are no longer needed.

      If the entire world had the same time but events were scheduled locally we could truly become the 24/7 world that we’ve been moving towards.

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