There’s been something different in the air these past few weeks. The trees are filled with birdsong, children are playing on the streets after school and passersby engage in the same line of small talk, “God, isn’t it great to get this light stretch in the evenings?” Spring has brought the clocks forward as it does every year and with it, society’s smiles, but could this extended daylight become our everyday all year round?
Daylight savings time or DST was first proposed by Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin’s great-great-grandfather, William Willet, to make more use of the sunshine people were sleeping through in the mornings. The decision to move the clocks forward in the UK was implemented a year after his death in 1916. DST was brought into motion largely for the conservation of fuel during the first world war, as well as the increase in the population’s productivity. Since then the clocks have fallen back in autumn and sprung forward in spring every year.
Back in 2019, the EU voted to end the moving back and forth of the clocks. Since the UK officially left the EU in 2020, this change does not apply. The EU agreed to allow European countries to choose whether to stay in permanent winter or permanent summertime and have that remain constant. This was due to take place in 2021 but was put on pause because of the demands of the pandemic taking top priority. Although these demands are still ongoing, it could be that we see the EU’s time change come into effect in the coming year or two if pandemic living continues to normalize as it has been.
Only last month on the 17th of March the ‘Sunshine Protection Act’ was also passed in the US to make daylight savings time permanent and no longer have the clocks fall back during winter. Considering the scale of issues the American senate is being called to deal with, this decision being passed at a time like this highlights the unanimous and simplistic nature of changing the yearly clock system. Although strange that it has been passed in the US during such turbulent times whilst the EU keeps the agreement shelved, for the time being, the quick passing of the act does show a surprising lack of resistance toward the change considering it has been the norm for over a century in some places. Then again, it can be argued that a century is not all that long ago considering the length of human history. Being only a few generations ago, the turning back of clocks can be just as easily stopped as it was started. The reason behind the changing of the clocks was to suit the way of living at the time, and our current way of living couldn’t be more different. Since our society has shifted and evolved so rapidly over the last one hundred years, and time rules our living, maybe a reset is overdue.
There are countries outside of the UK and US that continue to follow DST (sometimes in only certain parts of that country) including Iran, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. A long list of countries has abolished DST, some having never adopted it in the first place. India, Japan and China are the only three large countries that do not follow any DST in any of their regions.
So what would permanent DST look like? It would be constant ‘British Summer Time’ within the UK, the longer hours of daylight experienced in summer are guaranteed all year round. As great as this sounds, there are some suggested drawbacks to the change, the main one being sleep disruptions. It is believed biologically that the winter clock setting is better for us sleep-wise, that this time frame fits the human sleeping pattern closer than the summertime. Losing an hour of sleep in the summer disrupts our natural sleep rhythms and during the switch to summer during daylight savings comes a proven increase in cardiac problems in adults. As well as this there is a rise in road traffic collisions after the annual clock change, likely linked to the sleep deprivation after the clock switch. When we do think about it, human bodies are very fragile and shifting them in and out of two different time zones is bound to have some repercussions.
However, the extra hour used for the daytime allows for more activities in the evening and makes for safer journeys home when walking alone as well as driving. Having the daylight of summertime all year round would mean this becoming the daily norm and could well lessen the effects of seasonal depression for those who suffer it during the winter. Less electricity is used during the lighter months meaning cheaper energy bills and lesser emissions in terms of the climate’s health. The general improvement in mood and increase in socialising is also an appealing prospect for permanent DST. Being happier usually goes hand in hand with being healthier and when it comes to the summertime, it is safe to say that the tone feels lighter as the sun shines brighter when the clocks go forward. With a growing number of countries making the change, it could be that the scrapping of the twice-annual clock resets is more likely than not, but when it could occur cannot be predicted as of yet.