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A Time for Change

Like all of you, last week was once again time to move my clocks ahead. I am not sure where the past six months went, but time is certainly not standing still or even slowing down.

So, why do we have to change our clocks? Why does it get lighter earlier and dark later? This has something to do with the way the earth spins on its axis, but people did not always change their clocks.

The custom dates back to when times were tougher, and heating and electricity were very expensive.

The first advocate of time change was Benjamin Franklin, who, while visiting Paris, was astonished to see the sunrise, long before most Parisians ever saw the light of day.

Franklin said, if they were to rise with the sun, the city could save an ‘immense sum’ from using less candles in the dark evening hours. He never suggested a shift in clocks, however, instead he offered other amusing solutions to the problem, such as cannons firing in the street to rouse people from sleep, taxes for shuttered windows, and candle sales restrictions.

In the late 1800s, a British activist named William Willett proposed clock changing to prevent wasting daylight, bringing the concept to England’s Parliament in the early 1900s.

Canada began the tradition of changing the clocks in 1908 in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay). Still, it was not until resources became scarce during World War I, the rest of the country, along with the US and Germany, adopted the principle (1918).

To complicate things, not every country observes daylight savings time. Hawaii and most of Arizona have opted out of daylight saving time. Africa and most of Asia do not change their times, nor does Saskatchewan. Newfoundland, of course, changes by only half an hour.

Things may soon change, however. In 2019, the European Union voted to end the mandatory time shift, which previously spanned March and October. For now, negotiations have stalled as the bloc deals with the fallout from both Brexit and the pandemic.

For many, the change seems problematic. We miss meetings, fall asleep at odd hours, and are generally grumpy for a few weeks. Studies suggest the time change could be linked to an increase in fatal car accidents and heart attacks, but not enough to warrant any major upheavals.

Unfortunately, the saving of time has not helped financially. Any money saved in electricity is spent on air conditioning. More money goes to outdoor activities in the evenings, and gasoline consumption has increased.

I think most people prefer longer hours in the summer, but while you debate its merit, I have to go and change another clock I forgot to set.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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