David's Reviews > Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time

Spring Forward by Michael Downing
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Sep 10, 12

bookshelves: general-nonfiction, read-2012
Read in July, 2012

Update two months later: I have read the other DST book published in 2005, Seize the Daylight by David Prerau. I think it is superior to this one. Now, on to my original review...


I've been a Daylight Saving Time skeptic for as long as I remember. Why? Because I'm skeptical of anything that doesn't appear to make sense. And DST most certainly doesn't make immediate sense.

The first thing I learned in Spring Forward is that Daylight Saving Time does not have a second 's' as in Savings. It's not Daylight Savings Time! I've said that wrong all of my life and I've never known anyone to say it correctly. I think the fact that we don't know how to even say the thing is a completely accurate assessment of how well most of us understand DST.

The second thing I learned were the actual arguments put forth by proponents for DST. Some of them I knew. Many I did not.

Quick pop quiz: how does DST benefit society? Do you have an answer? Does it involve wartime energy conservation or farmers? Would you be surprised to find that farmers almost universally opposed DST? Or would you also be surprised that there is no evidence that DST has or ever will save energy costs? I'd like to say that these facts surprised me, but they didn't. Because at this point, I assume anything involving government mandates is the furthest thing from rational.

In fact, the only 'benefit' of DST likely to be demonstrably real is that it provides more time for sports and recreation on summer afternoons. Apparently nobody likes to do these activities in the morning instead?

Spring Forward does not contain the most exciting narrative ever written. But it seems to be well researched. It contains hundreds of quotes and facts surrounding the various DST debates in the United States and around the world from contemporary newspaper reports and government records. It does get a little repetitive, but to be fair, the history itself is highly repetitive.

The book contains some really amusing quotes, many of which skewer the concept of DST. But Downing himself seems loathe to editorialize and I feel he keeps a good balance of pro and con voices.

However, because of that, I don't think anyone with a preexisting opinion of DST is going to change their minds while reading this book. If you already think DST's a great idea, you are probably going to leave with that opinion. For myself, someone who is opposed to DST (until convinced otherwise), I certainly found plenty of ammunition with which to keep my opinion. I certainly didn't find the pro-DST arguments convincing. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I did, however, form a completely new opinion I'd not yet considered at all: that the very concept of time zones would best be abolished altogether. If you look at all the lunacy states and countries have gone through over the years to attempt to position themselves differently along timezone boundaries, you begin to question the very nature of zone-divided time altogether (and let's not even mention the International Date Line 'problem').

Instead, it seems exceedingly clear to me that the only logical thing to do is have the entire globe function on the same time. Existing GMT/UTC is already ready to perform this function. Yes, that would mean that I would eat lunch at...let's see...21:00, which is a time that sounds like nighttime. And a new day would begin as I was sitting down to eat dinner. But honestly, I'm completely okay with that. Especially if that means more of us can align our days with the actual rising and setting of the sun - not with arbitrary 15-degree time zone lines. It just makes sense in our Internet-connected world: when someone posts something at 06:00, it's everybody's 06:00. No more guessing. When someone on another coast wants to have a teleconference at 13:00, it's everybody's 13:00. No more math mistakes. Doing this would also kill off DST once and for all since it would become apparent how silly it is to change the clock to influence behavior!

Amazingly, Spring Forward was published the same year as another DST book, Seize the Daylight. I bought the both of them and will be reading that one next after my current fiction book (inserting fiction into my non-fiction stack keeps me somewhat well-adjusted and sociable). I'll be very interested to find out what additional material I learn from that book and whether or not that book addresses my skepticism and challenges my current opinion.
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