Blog Archives

The Clocks Go Forward… And Back… And Forward…

Dusk @ Speke (small).jpg One hundred years ago a London builder, William Willett, decided to cost ‘Daylight Saving’ hours in terms of health, happiness and energy. Judging from the MSN and Google search engine referrals, many of us would like to see the same thing happen again.
To my amazement the MSN search engine has been listing one of this website’s articles on ‘Daylight Saving’ as around number one of over 347,000 entries (the article’s also 7th of 21,000+ for Google). Obviously, there’s a lot of interest in this topic!
Daylight saving in another age
The strange thing is, as I’ve now discovered, it all came about in the first instance because of a London builder, William Willett (1856 – 1915) who was riding on Chislehurst Common in Kent one Summer morning in 1905, and realised that a lot of people were still abed, with their curtains drawn. This was more than Willett could take, so at his own cost he published a pamphlet (not an uncommon thing to do in those days – probably the equivalent of a media release now?) entitled The Waste Of Daylight, in which he extolled a complicated way of ‘extending’ daylight hours by making Summer Time ‘later’ in the day.
Willett’s ideas only became law in 1916, during the First World war and after his death (and then in a less complex mode), when the idea began to make sense in terms of energy saving at that time – though the benefit was short-lived because every country on both sides of the combat then also adopted it.
The cost-benefit analysis, 1907-style
Today, there are many who believe that Willett was right about British Summer Time, but quite wrong in thinking that we should have British Standard Time (i.e. ‘Winter Time’) at all. Willett argued that Summer Time would be healthier and happier for everyone, who could enjoy the lighter Summer evening and the leisure opportunities the ‘extra’ hour afforded. Even more impressively, he costed the economic benefits of the manoeuvre (£2.5 million p.a. in cash terms then, after lighting cost adjustments). And all this at his own expense.
Contexts change
What is deeply puzzling to many people is that this careful cost-benefit analysis has not been applied as carefully to our contemporary world. Willett wrote his pamphlet at a time when gas lighting was the norm, and when motor cars had barely been invented. At that time much more of the British economy was land-based and evening paid-for leisure activities were probably far less in demand than now.
So why has there been no more recent work on this? Where is the contemporary data which gives a full appraisal of the costs of having ‘Winter Time’? No longer can we even just think about what suits, and what is most safe and healthy for, us as individuals…. more ‘feel good’ serotonin, or more ‘sleepy’ melatonin? Safer journeys in the morning or in the evening?
Now even these judgements do not suffice; we have constantly and urgently to think also of what is least costly to our planet.
Judging from the current interest in this topic on the worldwide web, a lot of people would agree with me and many other commentators: the time has come to follow the example of a London builder of a century ago, and think anew about Daylight Saving and its benefits.

Read the rest of this entry

British Summer Time Draws To A Close

Clock (small) 06.9.5 002.jpg The nights are drawing in, and the debate is beginning once more… Must we really turn our meagrely lit afternoons into even more gloom? Maintaining the extra hour of afternoon daylight year-long, over and above British Standard Time (BST), well compensates most people for even darker mornings, as reports by RoSPA amongst others have demonstrated. The net benefits to the economy, energy savings, health, safety and, for instance, for the leisure industry, would be many.
Already talk is turning to the dreaded day that The Clocks Go Back – this year, Sunday 29 October at 2 a.m, in the U.K.. What daylight we may have enjoyed at 4 p.m. on 28th October will now be our allocation for just 3 p.m. on Sunday 29th; and it will get a lot worse before it gets any better, in March next year, when British Summer Time returns.
Why can’t we just keep to British Summer Time (BST; confusingly the same initials as the 1968-71 trial British Standard Time)? British Summer Time is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus one hour. The evidence shows benefits on balance would be an improvement in our overall quality of life. It’s been tried, from 1968-71, and it worked. And that was before issues around energy saving etc were deemed critical as well.
Background information
The background to the current situation, and the cost-benefits for health, safety, environmental sustainability, the economy, leisure activities and much else have had a good airing on this weblog:
The Clocks Go Forward (But Why, Back Again)?
Time is Energy (and Daylight uses Less)
The debate will continue
This is not an issue which is going to go away, so perhaps The Time Has Come for the Big Debate on this? In our eco- and economy-driven age, we can no longer simply do things as fundamental as this in a given way just because it’s the status quo.
The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled BST: British Summer Time & ‘Daylight Saving’ (The Clocks Go Back & Forward)…..
Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store…

Read the rest of this entry

Time Is Energy (And ‘Clocks Forward’ Daylight Uses Less)

Dawn (small).jpg‘Daylight saving’ is a strange notion. But ‘daylight energy saving’ is a very different consideration. How we arrange the hours of light and darkness across our working day has many impacts – which makes it all the more curious that so little high profile or current research has been focused on British Summer Time and rationales for why the clocks ‘go back’ in the Winter.
My recent piece on British Summer Time has drawn a lot of comment, both on and off this website.
Highway at night.jpgThere are people who seem simply not to mind whether / when it’s light or dark as they go about their daily business, but there are many others who have responded quite strongly in terms of their need for as much daylight as possible. It must be very helpful in some ways not to mind how dark it is, but it’s quite incomprehensible to others that there are folk who genuinely ‘don’t mind’. Perhaps it’s rather like being ‘colour blind’ – if you don’t perceive the difference between red and green you just accept (and may not even know about) it; or maybe some of us have physiologies which are more photo-sensitive than others.
Daylight saving is energy saving
The most important thing to come out of the discussions so far, however, is not that people may have different personal preferences, but that the terms of engagement in this debate are becoming clearer.
One striking aspect of so-called ‘daylight saving’ which is emerging, alongside the prime safety considerations, is its significance not only potentially for business efficiency, but also, even more crucially, for energy. It does begin to look very much as though more ‘summertime’ would keep energy consumption down.
Where’s the evidence?
A big surprise in all this is the paucity of serious publicly available evidence other than on safety (avoidance of accidents). It seems in some respects that the last substantial governmental research in this area was conducted in 1989.
That was now seventeen years ago. Since then, it need hardy be said, much has changed.
Business and technological practices are much different from those dismal years of two decades ago. Our consciousness of the energy crisis and of ecological issues is far better developed now than it was then. The public (electorate) is now far more aware of the issues of sustainability than they could possibly have been in the 1980s.
What’s the cost-benefit of ‘daylight saving’?
So where is the cost-benefit analysis of the different ways in wihich we might distribute the eternally pre-ordained number of daylight hours we have at our disposal, summer and winter? Common sense suggests that arranging things so there’s as much daylight as possible in the hours when most people can use it is a good start.
If anybody really knows the answer, please just let us know!
The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled
BST: British Summer Time & ‘Daylight Saving’ (The Clocks Go Back & Forward)…..

Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store…

Read the rest of this entry

The Clocks Go Forward … But Why, Back Again?

Sefton Park 06.6.3 039 Straited sky.(small) jpg.jpg British Summer Time is welcomed by almost all of us – more daylight when we can use it is much appreciated, as Lord Tanlaw’s proposed ‘Lighter Evenings (Experiment) Bill’ acknowledges, for reasons of health, safety, energy savings and business benefit. So why do we need to revert to the darkness next Autumn? The answer appears to be historical drag, a reluctance to be ‘European’, and an obdurate insistence by some of national identity over common well-being.
Like 99% of the rest of the UK population, I’m really looking forward to the extra hour of evening light which will be ours as of this weekend. We may lose an hour of sleep just one Sunday morning, but then we get months of beautiful daylight at hours when we can actually enjoy them. It can’t come too soon.
It was always a huge puzzle to me why the ‘experiment’ to keep British Summer Time all year seemed to go so badly wrong when it was tried in 1968 to 1971. Then I learned that it was nothing to do with sensible allocation of daylight hours for nearly all of us – it was essentially a sop to the Scottish Highlands, where apparently people demanded the right to dark evenings for us all, so that they had a bit more daylight in the morning.
Why Highlanders couldn’t just adjust their working day a bit if they so like first light, is beyond me.
Safety – and Health – take a back seat
Since the missed opportunity of thirty five years ago, things have moved on. We now know about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and about the net increase in accidentsacknowledged in many countries – which wintry Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) brings in its wake – even for Scotland.
So there really is no excuse for any failure to support Lord Tanlaw’s current private Parliamentary Bill to adopt Single Double Summer Time (SDST) for an experimental three years from 29 October this year. The idea has the support of ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) and of PACTS (the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) – who jointly last tried to effect such a change via Nigel Beard MP’s 10-minute bill in 2004. The previous time the change to all-year so-called ‘daylight saving’ was attempted before that was in 1994, with a Bill promoted by Nigel Waterson MP.
This debate has therefore now emerged as a matter of both safety and, equally importantly, health. The epidemiology of the proposed time shift suggests that it would not only reduce accidents, but also promote health; people would be more active in the winter, with beneficial effect to both physical and mental well-being.
My national identity before my health (and yours)?
The debate seems to boil down to two lines of argument:
Firstly, that it is the inalienable right of Scots people to conduct their morning farming activities in daylight – a ‘right’ which would be preserved in Lord Tanlaw’s bill, because it expressly accedes that the Scottish (and Ulster and Wales) Parliament/s could adopt current ‘winter time’ if they so determined; and
Secondly, that this is some sort of ‘European plot’, against farmers milkman and postal workers (…), foisting ‘non-British time’ on us – despite the additional difficulties which British ‘local’ winter time causes for companies seeking business across both Europe and wider afield. (It’s rather a surprise to learn in Hansard 8 Dec. 2004, Column 584W, that the Department of Trade and Industry has not conducted much research since 1989 (Cm 722) on potential economic and social effects of the ‘biannual time change’.)
Don’t play politics against common sense
Let us put aside the obvious issue that very few indeed of us live on farms (and that for many the sight of a postal worker before 10 a.m. – or a milkman at all – causes astonishment these days) and just focus on the facts.
Health and safety are what make our lives better. Not nationalities. And who wants his or her national identity to be seen as an obstacle to healthier and safer lives anyway?
~ ~ ~
The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled
BST: British Summer Time & ‘Daylight Saving’ (The Clocks Go Back & Forward)….. Specific articles include:
Making The Most Of Daylight Saving: Research On British Summer Time
The Clocks Go Forward… And Back… And Forward…
SaveOurDaylight: Victor Keegan’s Pledge-Petition
British Summer Time Draws To A Close
Time Is Energy (And ‘Clocks Forward’ Daylight Uses Less)
Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store…

Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: