Changing time zone can improve our health and makes our lives safer. Yet more often the decision is a political oneby Jessica Furseth / October 27, 2017 / Leave a comment
Spain has spent the past 77 years in the wrong time zone. Visitors may find the habit of starting work late and eating dinner after dark to be charming, but the reason Spain left Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to alight its clocks with central Europe’s is pretty sinister: General Franco wanted to show solidarity with Hitler.
Countries change their time zones all the time, and it’s usually for reasons similar to Spain’s move in 1940: politics. North Korea changed time zones in 2015 to mark its liberation from Japan in WW2. Samoa and Tokelau jumped the date line in 2011 to better align with its biggest trading partners. Hugo Chavez shifted Venezuela back by 30 minutes in 2007. Crimea joined Moscow Time in 2014 after the annexation. After independence from Britain, India adopted a single time zone as a display of unity.
Other arguments for changing the clocks have to do with health and wellbeing. Right now, in Massachusetts, a study is underway to look into the merits of joining Atlantic Standard Time, and California has been a battleground over the issue of Daylight Savings Time all year. Last December, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suggested bringing Spain back to its original time zone—a move that would lead to improved work-life balance as the workday could end earlier.
Whenever these proposals are made they are backed by clear research: optimal alignment of the available daylight with people’s waking hours is clearly beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing.
But countries don’t often move time zones for these kinds of reason—if they had, Britain would be on Central European time right now, as proposed in the defeated Daylight Savings Bill of 2012.
In the summer, the fact the bill failed doesn’t make that much of a difference. But the time of indifference to Britain’s current time zone ends on Sunday. On 29th October Britain will put the clocks back an hour, with the noble idea that it will save daylight.
Except that for the majority of Britons it doesn’t save us any light: creating lighter mornings and darker evenings means we just waste a lot of it by sleeping through it in the early mornings, only to face a…