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Understanding Daylight Savings: Time zones, clocks and a Bill passed in senate7 min read

March 17, 2022 5 min read


Understanding Daylight Savings: Time zones, clocks and a Bill passed in senate7 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Daylight savings? What’s that?! And what does this new bill passed by the US Senate mean? How will it affect our American friends and family?

Don’t worry readers, we were just as confused as you when we read about this in the news. So, we decided to understand what’s really going in the US, and what these two words are all about.

Let’s dive in…

Understanding Daylight Savings Time (DST)

DST is the practice of resetting clocks ahead by an hour in spring, and behind by an hour in autumn (or fall). During these months, countries that follow this system get an extra hour of daylight in the evening.

Because the spring to autumn cycle is opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, DST lasts from March to October/November in Europe and the US, and from September/October to April in New Zealand and Australia.

Dates for this switch, which happens twice a year (in the spring and autumn) are decided beforehand. By law, the 28 member states of the European Union switch together — moving forward on the last Sunday of March and falling back on the last Sunday in October. In the US, clocks go back on the first Sunday of November.

The different hemispheres on our planet. Photo: Britannica

But why was practice this started?

DST started in the US during World War I as an energy conservation trick, and became a national standard in the 1960s.

In a bid to save energy, people reset their clocks ahead by an hour in spring, and behind by an hour in autumn. People in favour of DST argue that it means a longer evening daytime, since daily work routines end an hour earlier and that extra hour of daylight is supposed to mean a lower consumption of energy.

Setting the clocks an hour early in the summer months, the work day too starts and ends an hour early, leaving a considerable amount of actual daylight to be enjoyed during the evening hours.

How many countries use DST?

Photo: Getty Images

 DST is in practice in some 70 countries, including those in the European Union. India does not follow daylight saving time; countries near the Equator do not experience high variations in daytime hours between seasons. What this essentially means is that unlike European countries, for example, we in India don’t see much difference in how many hours of daylight we experience, be it summer or winter.

Countries that follow DST and those that do not. Photo: Pinterest

In the US, it is practised everywhere except in Hawaii and most of Arizona. In Australia, DST is observed in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania besides some other, smaller territories; and not observed in Queensland and Western Australia among other territories.

Most Muslim countries do not use DST, as during the holy month of Ramzan, this could mean delaying the breaking of the fast for longer. Morocco has DST, but suspends it during Ramzan. However, Iran has DST, and stays with it even during Ramzan.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Germany implemented DST in 1916 to save fuel during World War I. The United States adopted the practice in 1918, but DST wasn’t standardised across the country until the passage of the 1966 Uniform Time Act.

What is the point of this?

 The rationale behind setting clocks ahead of standard time, usually by 1 hour during springtime, is to ensure that the clocks show a later sunrise and later sunset. Individuals will wake an hour earlier than usual, complete their daily work routines an hour earlier, and have an extra hour of daylight at the end.

The key argument is that DST is meant to save energy. According to a timeanddate.com report, it was followed by a group of Canadians on July 1, 1908, when residents of Port Arthur, Ontario, turned their clocks forward by an hour. Other locations in Canada soon followed suit. However, the idea did not catch on globally until Germany and Austria introduced DST on April 30, 1916, the rationale being to minimise the use of artificial lighting to save fuel during World War I.

 Does DST actually conserve energy?

A century ago, when DST was introduced, more daylight did mean less use of artificial light. However, modern society already uses so many energy-consuming appliances all day long that the amount of energy saved is negligible. Various studies have been conducted on the benefits and disadvantages of DST.

Do people want this?

 In March last year, the European Union moved to scrap the custom of DST.

In the US too, the changing of clocks is the subject of a debate that recurs every year, and a large number of people protest against it. The government in the US has gone ahead and passed this bill, which now needs to approval from President Joe Biden.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

There was a big misconception that DST was a concept invented by Benjamin Franklin — one of the founding fathers of the US. While Franklin is often credited with inventing the concept, he merely suggested that Parisians wake up earlier to save money on lamp oil and candles in a satirical essay published in the Journal de Paris in 1784.

What is the Sunshine Protection Act?

The bill, which was proposed in the Texas Legislature in 2019 and made its way to the Senate this week, would make daylight saving time the new permanent standard time.

What happens to the bill next?

Next, the Sunshine Protection Act will go to the House. If it passes the House, it will go to the desk of President Joe Biden for the official signature.

Do you think this Bill should be passed? What are the benefits and pitfalls of changing our clocks twice every year?

When would the change go into effect?

Florida senator Marco Rubio, one of the bill’s main promoters, said that implementation of the bill would be delayed until November of 2023 if signed into law, as “airlines, rails, transportation methods have already built out schedules based on [the current time system].” At that point, Americans would no longer have to change their clocks twice a year.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations

Not all US states practice DST. Hawaii and Arizona are on permanent standard time, as are Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Sources: Washington Post, Indian Express, The Quint, Reuters

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