Pro & Con | June 2019

The EU plans to abolish daylight savings time in 2021. A good idea?

Time for Change

Good riddance, I say! The benefits of Daylight Saving Time (DST) have always been dubious. First introduced during World War I by the Central Powers Germany and Austro-Hungary as a coal-saving measure, DST’s star rose again during the oil crisis of the 1970s, when it was argued that an extra hour of daylight would cut demand for heat and electricity.

Defenders say daylight means more consumer activity, more outdoor leisure in summer, and fewer car accidents on dark roads. But it also means less light in the morning, and unnatural seasonal daylight shifts: Dusk at 16:30 in winter feels just as strange as a summer sundown at 21:45.

And the implementation is a mess. There has never been a global consensus on the dates for the time switch – or whether to use DST at all. The US and Europe can’t agree when it starts and ends; Africa and most of Asia ignore it. Near the poles or the equator, the Earth’s axial tilt render it meaningless. In the Southern Hemisphere it’s reversed, if at all, and even in Australia only some territories switch. In our interconnected age, sorting out whether Japan is eight or nine hours ahead is maddening. And every year, DST throws off the bio-rhythms of toddlers and the elderly, creating a kind of semi-permanent jet lag.

These disruptions are unnecessary, adding confusion without discernable benefit. Down with DST! That said, the EU’s decision may add to the muddle: Each member may now decide whether to stick to the winter clock, or move to permanent summer time, potentially creating a patchwork of time zonelets.

Even on its way out, Sommerzeit remains a waste of time.

Manila-born, Brooklyn-bred and longtime resident of Vienna. Binu Starnegg is currently managing editor for Metropole.

 

Don’t Waste Our Time

Spring forward, fall back. A poetic reminder for the minor adjustment of the household clocks on the appointed days. The EU’s plans will allow member countries to choose between living in permanent summer or winter time. Many things in our world require changing, but DST is not one of them.

Sure, those with mechanical clocks on the wall still have to climb up on the furniture twice a year to move the hands. This seems to be too much of an imposition for some – we have all seen (and perhaps owned) clocks that spend half of each year wrong. But these days, smartphones and a range of other appliances reset automatically, no action required.

Let’s say we choose summer time – which is what many in Austria say they’d prefer. Of course, sitting outside in the evening is beautiful…when it’s warm and sundown dips the city in gold and fire, while we sip on our glowing Aperol Spritzers. But by winter at the latest, we pay for our summer pleasure.

Without DST, sunny evenings in July mean especially dark, cold mornings in November. Were there only summer time, in cities like Paris the winter sun wouldn’t rise till 09:44. What about the millions who start their day at 5:00 or the kids whose schools start at 8:00, leaving them in night’s embrace when they should be wide awake and concentrating?

Scientists have warned that switching to permanent summer time could lead to chronic sleep disorders in the night owls, even though they have to get up just as early. My solution: Why don’t we just shift the reset date from the last Sundays in October and March to the last Saturdays? Then people would have two days to acclimate.

Summer time is great – in summer. And isn’t it nice to have something to look forward to?

 

Born 1993, Julia C. Seidl studied journalism & media management while writing for various local news outlets such as ORF, Kurier and Falter before joining the Metropole team in 2018 as online content manager.

Binu Starnegg
Binu Starnegg
Manila born, Brooklyn bred and a longtime resident of Vienna, Binu Starnegg is currently managing editor for Metropole, where he completes myriad tasks with style and aplomb. Photo: Visual Hub

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