Every fall, like clockwork, I am shocked by the darkness of the sky at 6 a.m., then 7 a.m., then 8 a.m. Today, the sun rose at 7:49 a.m.
And every fall, like clockwork, I catch my incredulity and laugh because, of course, this happened last year. And the year before that. The Northern Hemisphere’s annual tilt away from the sun really should be the least surprising news to me — especially these days.
Today’s sunrise was the latest we will experience all year, thanks to the end of daylight saving time. Tomorrow, we “fall back” an hour to standard time. We won’t experience such morning darkness until next November, when I will be shocked, then self-amused all over again.
(Cross fingers that you don’t find yourself reading a similar column in 2019.)
Other than the pain of figuring out how to update my microwave clock all over again, I like the change wrought by daylight saving time. I look forward to the switch-up in my routine and the return of the sun to help nudge me out the door for a morning jog.
Many disagree. Critics call the time change an antiquated practice that merely serves to disrupt sleep patterns. There’s also some evidence pointing to a rise in crimes during dark afternoons. Suffice it to say that it’s a controversial topic.
So, how exactly did daylight saving time come to rule the day?
The idea has been attributed to several Americans, from the farmers who desired more time in the fields to Benjamin Franklin, who famously lauded those “early to rise.” In fact, the practice of moving clocks forward first came from Europe, according to “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time,” a rigorously researched book by David Prerau.
Dreaming of longer summer evenings on horseback, Englishman William Willett spent years tirelessly but unsuccessfully pushing “British Summer Time,” according to Prerau’s research. In 1916, just a year after Willett’s death, Germany became the first country to adopt the practice in order to conserve electricity during World War I. Britain and other neighboring countries followed shortly after.
In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson brought daylight saving time to the U.S. Far from pleased, farmers were infuriated and successfully repealed the act after the war — only to be overruled by FDR during World War II.
Ever since, daylight saving time has been a bit of a mess. Over the decades, farmers continued to protest, and states — even counties and towns — felt free to edit the start and end time to their liking.
“Extra railroad timetables alone cost the equivalent today of over $12 million per year,” Prerau reported.
Today, about 70 countries in the world observe the time change, primarily citing the desire to save energy — reasoning that has been hotly contested. In the U.S., as recently as 2007, a law dictated that daylight saving time run from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. Except, you know, in Arizona and Hawaii, where it is still not observed.
Whew. I have a bit of a headache after diving into the daylight saving debate. Luckily, tomorrow will make it up with an extra hour of sleep and an earlier sunrise.