30 March 2011

Daylight saving time year-round ... If the Russians can do it, so can we

If George W. Bush did anything worthwhile as president, it was extending daylight saving time (DST) for an extra few weeks. Now the Russians have gone him one better—much better. They are extending DST for the whole year.

On Sunday, Russian clocks sprang ahead for the last time. The country is now on summer time permanently. President Dmitry Medvedev claimed the time changes caused "stress and illnesses" and "upset the human biorhythm." From a more scientific standpoint, geography professor Arkady Tishkov, a member of the working group that advised cancelling the biannual changes, said they created a number of problems including disruption of sleep patterns, aggravation of chronic diseases and increased traffic accidents. "During the period of the clocks changing, the number of heart attacks increases by 50 per cent and the number of suicides by 66 per cent," he said, "Crime will also drop when the clocks are not put back in October because thieves are less active during daylight hours."

The British group Lighter Later wants to go even further, adding an hour throughout the year plus changing the clocks in spring and fall to get yet another hour for the summer months (sort of like Saskatchewan with DST). Their argument is for more sunshine when people are awake to enjoy it as well as the environmental benefits from reduced electrical use. In Queensland, Australia, advocates for permanent daylight saving time have even formed a political party—Daylight Saving for South East Queensland—that seeks a referendum on the issue.

I, too, would like more light when I'm awake and doing stuff. I freely confess to a bias. I have always been a late-night, late-morning person, something my retirement has given me full opportunity to enjoy; nonetheless, I am confident most Canadians, suffering through our seemingly interminable winters, would prefer a little more light in the evening at a cost of a little less in the morning. Anyway, let's ask them. Let's take a page out of Daylight Saving for South Queensland's book, and hold a referendum. My bet is a sweep for DST year round.

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