The normally laid back islanders in Mallorca were unusually exercised when I was there this week over half-term.
They’re campaigning to stick with summertime time across the Balearics when the clocks go back across the rest of Spain this weekend as they do in the UK.
Their efforts have met with local approval but they fear central government in Madrid who have the final say won’t agree that they should hang onto that extra hour of evening sun. Even though the islanders say that as they are the most easterly part of Spain they suffer most from the time change.
Their reasons for extending that summertime feel aren’t just about enticing tourists to come enjoy the winter sun, although they do hope it would boost an economy that relies heavily on the summer months.
What this is really about, they argue is improving everyone’s quality of life. Who doesn’t prefer to have longer, lighter evenings? They point to health benefits for children who play outside more on lighter evenings.
They also say the natural sunlight allows people to be more active, it improves people’s health and state of mind. The benefits also extend to a better work life balance. It saves energy helping both the economy and the environment.
All this, when even in mid-winter, the earliest the sun sets there is 5.30pm. So what about us, destined to be plunged into afternoon darkness from Sunday, with sun sets before 4pm throughout December?
The Balearics campaign called ‘Islands with Light’ makes even more sense when applied to us here in the UK. Which of us really wants to turn back time on Sunday and throw ourselves headlong into those dark winter nights?
It’s 100 years since we first introduced British Summer Time during WW1 to save coal. Since then various alternatives have been tried. Between 1968 and 1971 we did have British Summertime all year round. We haven’t tried it again since 1972, that’s longer than we’ve been in the European Union.
There have been plenty of campaigns, petitions and debates in parliament about extending British Summer Time and the arguments seem as attractive as they are compelling. They include everything from helping to fight childhood obesity to boosting tourism. The Home Office even believes there’d be a 3% drop in crime!
One study of 23,000 children reported on BBC found that their daily activity levels were 15 to 20 percent higher on summer days than winter days and that moving the clocks back causes a 5% drop in physical activity.
Conserving energy was the reason BST was first introduced and the University of Cambridge found that an extra daily hour of sunlight could save £485 million each year as people use less electricity and heating.
An added bonus is that that has the effect of eliminating the carbon emissions of 70,000 people. This is because for many of the winter months it is light before some of us are up and about whereas we are all in need of light in the late afternoon.
AA backs the campaign for year round BST in order to increase road safety. The last time we had year round BST there was an 11 percent drop in traffic accidents.
That’s aside from the feel good factor of not leaving work in the dark for 5 months of the year.
So why are we even debating this? Why can’t we have summer time all year round?
The only naysayers really seem to be Scottish MPs who warn the sun wouldn’t rise until 10am in northern parts of the country. However that means it currently rises at 9am so school children and workers are already travelling in the dark every morning.
There’s also a fairly spurious argument about dairy farmers in Scotland and Northern Ireland who already have to get up at 5am… to make it light for them we’d have to be on the same time zone as New York.
We seem to be in the year of living dangerously in UK, we’ve voted for a leap into the dark when we decided to leave the EU. We’ve stuck with British Summer Time for even longer than we’d been in Europe so let’s take a leap into the light and never turn the clocks back again.