In defence of GMT

Posted on: 29 October 2010 by Alexander Hay

Putting our clocks back might not be popular, but we may lose more than we gain if the UK ends up in another time zone...

http://owl-oiw-production.s3.amazonaws.com/upload_datas/253/landscape_large.jpg?1288369831It's that time of year once more, where the clocks go back and it gets even more dark and frigid. Many of you, as you scrape the ice and flash-frozen wildlife off your cars, may ask why we do this. Some may well ponder why we put up with this every year. After all, as a species, we do like daylight and frost as a whole just doesn't agree with us. 

Some even say it's bad for us. Dr Mayer Hillman, a researcher at the Policy Studies Institute, says that the fewer hours of daylight we get makes us fat and unhealthy. Saga goes so far as to say that it makes older people confused, poor and unfit in equal measure. (All that cold weather makes Mrs Sunter up the road put her gas on all day and not go out the house for three months.) And even the forces of Mammon, or in this case Boris Johnson, thinks ditching GMT will do wonders for the economy.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Rebecca Harris has proposed that we go the whole hog and adopt Central European Time. This means putting our clocks forward one hour permanently, then adding another one on top of that in the summer, as they do in Germany, France et al. Apparently we will get more daylight.

But let's pause for a minute and ask ourselves if we need to change. Media scare stories are all very well, but frosty mornings and a lack of sunlight don't kill millions as a rule. Road accidents do go up because it is darker, but that says more about our driving competency than the time of year. Nor should we be taken in by yet more hand-wringing about our children turning into bloated sacks of lard. We may well be the fattest nation in Europe and share a guilt complex over our health; but put simply, GMT will not kill us.

More to the point, having our own odd time system gives us a shared point of reference. It also certainly doesn't stop us in our everyday lives and, most importantly, it reminds us that there's a lot to be said for diversity.

After all, what really lies at the heart of calls for us to take up CET, it seems, is a desire for uniformity, for everything to be the same everywhere. And really, there isn't a need. A world where everyone goes to work in Chicago six hours after we do, or where tomorrow is today in Sydney is a world that teaches us that life is a matter of perspective. Whereas, suddenly having the same time as Berlin or Paris is one less reason to ask not only how we fit in the world, but how conditional our own lives are.

(One extra hour of sleep doesn't hurt either.)

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Alexander Hay

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