Monday, November 5, 2018

U.S. Suffers Through Another Time Change, Europe Contemplates Eliminating Them

Yesterday, the United States suffered through another twice a year time change, falling back to Standard Time. Thousands of workers undoubtedly reported for work at the wrong time and millions undoubtedly complained. In stark contrast, Europe is strongly considering doing away with the twice a year hassle. 

What started as a citizens' petition in Finland to eliminate Daylight Savings Time (DST) a topic of debate in the European Union (EU) Parliament. This follows a trend of people all over the world questioning the need to change the clocks twice a year but this is, to date, the largest such scale movement.

Last Year, over 70,000 Finns signed a petition urging the government to scrap DST. A government committee was formed to study the idea and came to the conclusion that the time change not only didn't save any measurable energy, but that it caused more harm than good, citing short term sleep disorders, increased risk of heart attack/stroke, and lost productivity at work.

Unfortunately for the Finns, getting rid of DST was more complicated than passing a law.
Finland is a member of the EU, which requires all members to observe the same time change dates and the same length of time shift. The Finns' actions prompted the EU Parliament to take up the debate, at which point the matter is undergoing 'thorough assessment.'

DST started in Germany and Austria-Hungary adopting a 1 hour leap forward of the clocks to help conserve coal during WWI. By the end of the conflict, all combatants had adopted the practice. However, after the armistice, DST was dropped until WWII. This time, not all the combatants stopped observing it after peace was declared, the United States was among such nations. DST gained renewed interest in the late 70s with the energy shortages, at which point many countries resurrected the time change. Finland has observed DST since 1981.

However, times are changing and the value of DST is being called into question not only in Finland, but around the world.

Leaders in Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden have also called for the ending of DST, but there has yet to be any official government action taken in these countries.

In contrast, many leaders in central and Southern European countries have expressed skepticism about the idea of eliminating DST and/or have questioned why their Northerly neighbors find changing the clocks twice a year so bothersome.

Russia has taken the lead of all countries in experimenting with time changes. Many Russians also hated the time change and, in 2011, Russia went to a year long DST. However, this proved unpopular and, in 2014, Russia went back to Standard Time for the entire year.

If you think the world's approaches to time changes is complicated, look at the United States.

After WWII, the US never dropped DST, but there was no uniformity in how it was observed from state to state. States could choose to spring forward and fall back on whatever dates they wished and, in addition, were free to choose the length of the shift. States were also free to abstain from DST if they wished. Result: the time zone system designed to make continental travel simpler was thrown into chaos. As a result, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, which set national days for time changes and standardized the length of the shift at 1 hour. However, it still did not require states to observe DST. Currently, two states-Arizona and Hawaii-do not observe DST. Bucking the trend of wanting to do away with DST, Indiana, a long hold-out, adopted DST in 2016.

Now, come 2018, things are getting more complicated. Florida's legislature passed a bill that would guarantee more sunshine in the Sunshine State by switching Florida to permanent DST. A Massachusetts government commission recommended the state switch from Eastern Time to Atlantic Time during the period of time the rest of the country went back to Standard Time, a de-facto year long DST.

Taking a humorous approach to the whole time change debate, Italian EU Parliament member Angelo Ciocca brought a huge clock to the floor when he spoke and then proceeded to wind back the clock an hour in order to illustrate the 'waste of time' the debate was causing. He then urged his fellow MPs to focus on 'real issues' instead.

Where will this debate lead? Appropriately, only time will tell.

See Also:
Don't Blame Ben Franklin for DST

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