Chasing the sun

By Efrosini Costa

Chasing the sun
Around the world, warm-weather enthusiasts are making the case for year-round daylight savings. But what are the benefits of extended hours of sunshine?

If you were offered an extra hour of time to spend with your family and friends, would you want it? What if you were told the additional time could boost productivity and economic growth, save energy and reduce road accidents, crime and alcohol-fuelled violence? Not to mention, potentially minimise heart attacks and migraines, prevent hip fractures and help tackle obesity? What about enjoying mid-week barbecues and after-work surfing or swimming all year round?

This concept is known as Single Double Summer Time (SDST). The idea is to push one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) during winter, and two hours ahead during summer for a three-year trial period. This would mean lighter evenings but darker mornings. There has been a strong campaign to have it introduced in the UK, with the proposal under consideration by Prime Minister David Cameron.

More than 70 countries worldwide practise Daylight Saving Time (DST), with many extending its duration for a variety of benefits. Chile has changed its DST several times since 1987 for reasons including drought, earthquakes and to accommodate a visit by Pope Jean Paul II. But manipulations of GMT have not been without their share of controversy.

In October 1999, the King of Tonga put the clocks forward one hour to ensure that his island would beat neighbouring Fiji to the millennium. In 2001, the Mayor of Mexico City sparked a constitutional crisis, arguing with the president over who had the power to decree what the time was. And in September 1999, three Arab Israeli terrorists were blown up by their own bomb after misunderstanding the timers set by West Bank Palestinians – the West Bank was on daylight saving time; Israel wasn’t.

The greatest opponents to extending DST are those who live in rural areas and work in agriculture; generally much earlier risers than their metropolitan cousins, they don’t relish the thought of working in darkness.

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