Face it – it’s just daylight ‘shifting’ time

Mar. 08, 2014 @ 01:31 PM

A polling firm, Rasmussen Reports, has asked folks in national telephone surveys if they agree or disagree with this statement about Daylight Saving Time: “Don’t think the time change is worth the hassle.”

Forty-seven percent agree with that statement. Only 40 percent disagreed.

Count me as a 47-percenter.

I submit we ought to call it Daylight Shifting Time. The acronym would stay the same and it would be a more honest name.

We don’t, let’s face it, “save” any daylight. We move it from the morning to the evening. There may be some benefits to that – if you get off work at, say, 5 p.m., you’ve got, starting this week, another hour hours  to enjoy the outdoors while the sun’s still shining.

But if you get up at 6 a.m., say, and have been tantalized that the first streaks of dawn now – or at least until yesterday – were beginning to appear not long after, forget it for another several weeks.

I’ve felt a bit guilty fussing about Daylight Savings Time, until I found out I’ve got a lot of company. For that, I’m indebted to Brian Handwerk of National Geographic, who wrote at surprising length about the time change on the magazine’s daily news website, www. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/.

Handwerk likes the topic; he appears to write about it twice a year. Last week’s was a fairly neutral “Daylight Saving Time 2014: When Does it Begin? And Why?”) Last fall, it was a somewhat more contentious “Time to Move on? The Case Against Daylight Saving Time.”

People have written entire books about the premise DST is a mistake.

Handwerk, in the fall 2013 article, quotes Tufts University professor Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.”

“‘The whole proposition that you can gain or lose an hour is at best theoretical,’ Downing said. ‘So I think from the start people had no clear idea what we were doing or why we were doing it. It just generates confusion, and confusion generates bad will.’"

Handwerk cites studies debunking one of the foundational reasons DST was inaugurated – energy savings.

“Lighter evenings mean lower demand for illumination and electricity,” he wrote. “But studies question whether daylight saving time produces any gains at all – and some suggest it may have the opposite effect.”

That is particularly true in our part of the country, where the extra hour of evening means people crank up their air conditioners earlier and for longer. That offsets any gains from turning on the lights later.

“Everywhere there is air conditioning, our evidence suggests that daylight savings is a loser,” Hendrik Wolff, an environmental economist at the University of Washington told Handwerk.

Advocates argue daylight saving time has health benefits because – and studies do indicate this is true – people are more likely to walk, jog or otherwise exercise outside in the evening instead of plopping in front of the television.

But listen to Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, German, who Handwerk interviewed.

Roenneberg said studies show “our circadian body clocks – set by light and darkness – never adjust to gaining an ‘extra’ hour of sunlight at the end of the day,” according to Handwerk.

“‘The consequence of that is that the majority of the population has drastically decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, increasing susceptibility to illness, and is just plain tired.”

So there.

I planned to move my clocks forward last night – the ones that don’t automatically reset– but I don’t have to be happy about it.

But I am happy a fair amount of science is on my side.

Bob Ashley is editor of The Herald-Sun. You can reach him at 919-419-6678 or bashley@heraldsun.com.