How the Circadian Rhythm Affects the Environment

daylight_0 Daylight savings is one of the bane’s of my existence. Granted, I’m not the sunniest person around to begin with, so my ability to acquire further “banes” is possibly a negating factor in describing my dislike of DST. But I want to stress this; daylight savings is simply not worth it.

Luckily for me, I’m not alone in my views. And additionally, I’m backed up not only by science, but by environmentalists as well.

Now, granted, it isn’t as if I actually make use of the daylight savings. I work from 1am to 9am each day, and have about an hour or two on either side. But there are those who encounter daylight savings as it was originally intended, and many of those – at least in the UK – are causing an increase in unnecessary greenhouse emissions.

Dr Elizabeth Garnsey of the Department’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and Brendan Cronin a student in the Department on the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development are the brainchildren behind the most recent study (pdf) to discuss daylight savings.

What they are positing, through their research, is that unless you live in Scotland, there is virtually no reason why you should put your clocks forward (or back… or forward… whatever). Putting the clocks back results in “more traffic accidents and higher, more costly, evening peaks in electricity consumption than would occur on British Summer Time, also known as GMT+1.”

Consider the logic behind your daily routine. You wake up, and unless you’re a super morning person, you’re pretty much drowsy until your morning-tea/coffee. Due to the current system in the UK though, you get an extra hour of daylight to be drowsy in.

By the time you are a little more alive and finish work, you’re still more likely to go for a walk, hit the gym, and play with the kids. But that is put out of the question because the light has disappeared, because you already had it in the morning.

Looking further and environmentally in to the equation, you see how this impacts the environment. Winter is freezing the door down, you’ve gotten home from work, and the sun’s gone. What’s your first instinct? It is, naturally, to put the heater on, put the lights on. This causes a surge in the power requirements that force the companies to revert to their back up power stations, that are inherently less environmentally friendly; the oil-fired power plants for example.

If you want simple facts, then all you have to do is know that 35% of the UK population is asleep during the extra hour of sunlight. Which doesn’t mean 65% are using the sunlight, it just means there are a few more drowsily driving to work.

The report compiled by Garnsey and Cronin is currently being read “with interest” by UK minister Pat McFadden, the employment minister who also has responsibility for timekeeping.

So even though an issue doesn’t seem like it should affect the environment, more often than not, there is always a link. What am I saying? Not much, just be careful about the decisions you make. They have implications beyond what you can currently see.

PhysOrg – Set your clock to ‘British green time

Daily Galaxy – Daylight Savings & the Circadian Rhythm

University of Cambridge – Official Report (pdf)

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