Saturday, March 8, 2008

Blame B.F.

I, like many others, remain extremely disgruntled about the pending loss of an hour of sleep that I will experience early tomorrow morning as Daylight Savings takes place. Over the past 20 years, I have conditioned myself to look forward to the addition of an extra hour of sleep in the fall, and have learned to loathe the fateful spring day when my precious hour will be lost, never giving much thought to the cause and reason behind the concept...until now.

Who was the culprit responsible for responsible for this cruel and unusual punishment?
What type of person would conjure up a concept that robs millions of people of an hour of their most valued resources?
How could anyone do such a terrible thing?

The who, surprisingly enough, turns out to be none other than Benjamin Franklin...yes, the Benjamin Franklin. Apparently Franklin was not content with being one of the most influential Founding Fathers , an author, printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and diplomat, and felt the need to add "Thief of Sleep" to his resume.

Franklin first constructed the framework on which Daylight Saving Time was developed in 1874 during a diplomatic sojourn to Paris, France. It was during this trip that Franklin authored An Economical Project, a discourse on the thrift of natural versus artificial lighting. This piece was not only responsible for proposing several potential regulations that Paris could adopt to help the efficiency of their economy, but additionally responsible for spurning a bounty of nations around the globe to utilize a variation of the concept to save energy and fully enjoy the benefits of daylight 200 years later.

Although it has been affirmed that the primary purpose of changing our clocks during the summer months to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening is to make better use of daylight, Daylight Saving Time has garnered its fair share of critics.

While my reasons for disliking Daylight Savings are entirely selfish, others have questioned its purpose, citing that it's energy saving reasoning is fundamentally flawed. These critics have argued that the alleged energy that is made by DST is offset by the energy used by air conditioners and cooling devices that those living in warm climates to cool their homes during hot summer afternoons and evenings. Other critics have asserted that more evening hours of light encourages people to run more errands and visit friends, thus resulting in the consummation of more gasoline.

Distaste for DST has also been expressed by people whose schedules are tied to sunrise, such as farmers, as it often takes animals a few weeks to adapt to the new schedule. Parents have expressed concern that early morning dangers are more abundant with the enactment of the Spring Daylight Saving Time, as children are less visible as they cross roads and wait for school buses in the darkness.

Now, it's impossible to say definitively say that Franklin knew what the long term repercussions his ideas would have on the sleep cycles of generations of people would be, but I can't help but think that upon drafting An Economical Project at the ripe old age of 78 years, he couldn't have cared less, as he would soon be enjoying the deepest slumber of them all.

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