Daylight Saving Time – Do we save anything?
Daylight Saving Time (DST) is coming this weekend, something that really started in Germany and Austria during World War I., They called it Sommerzeit or Summer Time, a name that is still used and which in our case is nothing but a sad irony: we are still in what looks like an endless winter, and usually that’s the situation until the end of March. Let’s not deceive ourselves Canadian winters rarely end when the calendar says they should end.
This German-Austrian invention was used intermittently in many countries during the following decades but it was definitely revived during the energy crisis of the early 1970s becoming more or less a global phenomenon today. In our case—like many other things in which the Canadian elites are mindless followers—we have simply adapted our clocks to the dictates of the Americans.
The rationale for DST is that advancing the clock one hour when supposedly there is more daylight would save energy, especially electricity since during the summer months the evenings would have more natural light. The claims of electricity savings are however highly contested, in fact there is no conclusive evidence that such energy savings really occur. That is particularly true in the case of Canada. Unlike the United States where generally the winters are shorter due to their geographic location, Canada being much more to the north doesn’t enjoy a significant increase in daylight by this time of the year; that may come by the second or third week in April but not before. This difference with respect to our neighbours results in turn in an increased use of artificial light in the morning which cancels out the hypothetical savings of the evening. We all know that by advancing the clock one hour those who had to get up at 6:30 or 7 in the morning with DST they are indeed doing it one hour earlier when most of Canada is still quite dark. Moreover, since usually that is also the period of the day when temperatures are the lowest, that brings an increase in other forms of energy namely gasoline, since people will need extra time to start their cars, indirectly throwing more carbon emissions into our atmosphere.
To make things worse, when in 2006 the Americans decided to lengthen DST which used to start the first Sunday in April and end the last Sunday of October, to begin now the second Sunday of March and end the first Sunday of November, the Canadian authorities slavishly followed suit without considering the climatic and geographic differences. At the time the reason given was that we needed to be synchronized with the Americans because many Canadian companies do business with the U.S. and therefore we have to be able to contact them on their own time (!). That reason certainly doesn’t hold any water: for a bunch of people who die to sell something to their Americans counterparts we are all subjected to losing one hour of sleep and battle the cold weather? Indeed we are neither saving electricity nor any other form of energy and we are not gaining any large amount of extra light after people finish working because our northern evenings don’t have all that extra light that our American neighbours enjoy. It seems that when it comes to time, the wisest people are those in Saskatchewan who never got into this DST scheme.