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Changing the time August 23, 2010

Posted by lapsippipm in Read n Learn.
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Posted by Peter 30 March 2010

timechange

A summer evening. Will we enjoy them more if we change our time? Photo by WhiteGoldWielder/flickr

Last Sunday, in the early hours of the morning, a whole hour disappeared. It was the beginning of summer time. Every year, at the end of March, we change the time on our clocks and watches. We move the time forward by one hour, so that, for example, 1.00 am becomes 2.00 am. It is light for longer in the summer than in the winter. However, extra daylight early in the morning is not much use to us, because we are still in bed. We want the extra daylight in the evening, when we can go outside and dig the garden or take a picnic to the park. By changing the clocks, we move an hour of summer daylight from the morning to the evening, when we can enjoy it more. In winter, therefore, we have winter time, or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). In summer we have summer time, or British Summer Time (BST) as it is officially called.

Instead, we could of course all get up earlier in the morning during the summer. We could all start work, or school, or college, an hour earlier. And then we could go home an hour earlier as well. But we English do not like getting up early in the morning. In Germany, many people arrive at work at 7am or even earlier. We English are more sensible. We stay in bed. And it would be difficult to get everyone to agree to start work an hour earlier. So we change the time on our clocks instead.

During the Second World War, we had a sort of double summer time – we moved the clocks forward by one hour in the winter and by two hours in the summer. We did this to save energy and increase productivity in the factories. But at the end of the war, we went back to the old winter and summer times. Every few years, for the last 50 or 60 years, we have had a national debate in the press and in Parliament about permanently changing our time, in the same way that we did during the war. A new campaign to change our time has just started. It is called “Lighter Later” and you can read about it on its website.

“Lighter Later” says that if we move our time forward by an hour, it will solve almost all the problems of the world:

  • it will save energy, because we will not need to use so much electricity for lighting in the evenings.
  • our carbon dioxide emissions will fall.
  • there will be fewer road accidents.
  • it will be good for tourism, and help to create jobs in the leisure and tourism industries.
  • it will be easier for us to play sport or go jogging in the evenings, so we will all be fit and lose weight.
  • it will reduce crime.
  • it will make everyone happy, rich and famous.

OK, I invented the last one about “happy, rich and famous”. But it is clear that there are some very strong arguments for changing our time by moving the clocks forward by another hour for the whole year. In particular, it would be a cheap and easy way of reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.

In the past, two groups of people have argued against changing our time. The first group is people who have jobs where they have to start work very early in the morning. Farmers, for example, may need to milk their cows very early. If we changed the time, the farmers say, they would have to start work in the dark all year round, even in the middle of summer. The second group is people who live in Scotland. Scotland is further north than England, and this means that there is less daylight in the winter than in England. The Scots argue that changing the time would mean that Scottish schoolchildren would have to go to school in the dark for several months during the winter.

What will happen this time? Will we finally change our time? Or will the old objections win? There are some signs that the campaign for a change in our time may succeed. There is an urgent need to find ways of reducing our carbon dioxide emissions. The organisation which represents British farmers now says that it is “neutral” about making the change. And the Scots? Well, British politics has changed in recent years. Scotland now has its own Parliament and its own government. Many people in England now say that the Scots can sort out their own problems, but they cannot block changes which are good for England.

To finish, I should tell you that no-one has told the British weather that the clocks have gone forward and it is now officially summer time. The weather forecast for tomorrow is for snow in many places.

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