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About time, it seems

08 November 2013

WE KNOW what we must do: we "spring forward" and we "fall back". But is this the best use of our time?

Debating the effects of turning the clocks back has been a British pastime for nearly a century. Germany and its allies were the first European countries to adopt Daylight Saving Time (DST) in 1916, followed by the UK and other Western European countries, in an effort to save fuel during the First World War.

During the Second World War, the Government moved the clocks forward one hour to help munitions factories maximise productivity and allow people to get home safely before the blackout. This practice is remembered by one senior citizen: "How well I remember the '39-'45 war, when we had Summer Time in winter and Double British Summer Time [two hours forward]: longer daylight for games-playing in winter, and long, lazy light evenings in summer. . . It was equally good for our health and education. Bring back DBST."

These sentiments were echoed in the Commons last month when Sir Greg Knight asked the Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Tom Brake: "Can we have a debate on making better use of natural resources, particularly daylight?

"Are you aware that this weekend we are to undertake the flawed ritual of putting our clocks back one hour, thereby plunging the UK into darkness by mid-afternoon? Can we have the opportunity to examine the case for changing to British Summer Time and Double Summer Time?"

In Sir Greg's view, DST would save lives, boost tourism, create jobs, cut energy use, and raise the spirits of the nation. Mr Brake replied: "Clearly, I think we are all in favour of making better use of daylight."

Hear, hear. But what is better? Agrarian societies are run by the sun, industrialised societies by the clock; and some prefer the former. As one commentator said: "DST was introduced in World War One to help farmers gather in the harvest - a much more labour-intensive operation than today's hi-tech combines.

"Frankly, now that they harvest at all hours, and plough and sow winter cereals at night, using powerful headlights, it's not necessary. I firmly believe we should use GMT all year, and stop this nonsense of Summer Time/Double Summer Time. Just let us enjoy the seasons as they unfold."

Our technological brilliance at conquering the dark is matched by our emotional listlessness when faced by it. The psalmist noted that, to God, dark and light are alike; but we are children of the light who want the light left on.

We can change the clocks: we have the power; or we could befriend the seasons, which mean us no harm. 

Angela Tilby is away.

 

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