We are at heart a wasteful society - and it seems that the intrinsic value of daylight is no exception. For large chunks of the year we often sleep when it is light and we are awake in the depths of darkness.
Such is the folly of modern society that our natural circadian rhythms and the balance between day and night have been brutally squeezed by modern electricity's triumph over the night. Bright lights are the norm and night is more of an optional experience.
Here in the northern hemisphere we are plunging headlong into days of less daylight and longer nights. And this Sunday our country will change the clocks by putting them back one hour, in what Sir Greg Knight MP describes as a “flawed annual ritual”.
According to Sir Greg the answer is to bring our waking hours more in line with the hours of daylight - rather than ‘waste’ daylight in the early morning when most of us are still asleep
“Our current, self-chosen time settings mean that for most of winter days, people at work, college or school have little or no sunlit leisure time,” he says.
“The answer is to put our clocks forward an extra hour all year round and move to a system of Single/Double Summer Time (SDST).”
Evidence for the positive effects of shifting the clocks forward is mounting. Research indicates that any increase in road casualties during a darker morning rush hour in winter would be more than offset by a decrease in road casualties as a result of lighter afternoons.
Knock-on benefits of reduced electricity bills and improved health (less Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter, combined with a boost for the leisure and tourism on late summer days, mean that such a change has a growing band of champions.
Old arguments about milkmen and postal workers needing early-morning sunlight to carry out deliveries look exactly like what they are – arguments from when life was very different.
The National Farmers’ Union, at one time a staunch critic of any change, now says the reasons for farmers' past opposition to advancing the clocks have been “lost in history” (and probably modern technology).
A grassroots campaign is aiming to prove there is an alternative to dark winter afternoons – and at the same time raise awareness about the benefits to our health, the environment and economy of managing our time in a different way.
This weekend the Happy Hour challenge is encouraging people to discover for themselves the social and health benefits of SDST – for just a couple of days.
Chris Hayes, campaign co-ordinator, says: “As well as raising awareness about positive emotional well-being and freedom, this is also all about changing the way we do politics and policy; getting people to actually experience and try things out rather than debating abstract policy concepts.”
“We don't want to prescribe how people take on the challenge but ideally it is to leave the clocks alone on Sunday and spend all of that day and then next an hour ahead of everyone else (GMT+1),” he explained.
Rebecca Harris MP also supports SDST. “The Happy Hour campaign is a great way to show how people could benefit in a practical way from keeping an extra hour of light in the afternoons,” she says.
“Whether it's getting more exercise, sport and recreation or saving cash by using less artificial lighting it would clearly be of public benefit. And road safety organisations are adamant that more daylight in the late afternoon will save many lives and serious injuries.
“I hope the Happy Hour campaign will get more people thinking about how they would use an extra hour’s afternoon light and convince the political parties to commit to include it in their manifestos.”
Whilst the beauty of SDST is its ability to deliver much for little cost - the devil is in the politics. Happy Hour offers the chance to try it out in a fun way. So why not leave your watch on BST and give it a go?
Your body certainly won’t notice the difference for a couple of days. And while everyone else is complaining about how dark the afternoon has suddenly become you can enjoy an extra hour in the park or garden.
Blog photos by Clive Simpson. For more details see the Happy Hour website.
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