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Citizens' initiative to dump Daylight Saving Time heads to Finnish lawmakers

A citizens' initiative which aims to eliminate Finland's participation in Daylight Saving Time has been signed by more than 70,000 people and was handed over to the second deputy speaker of parliament on Thursday.

Kello -installaatio.
Art installation "Zeitfeld" by German artist Klaus Rinke File photo. Image: Maja Hitij / EPA

Like many people around the world, tens of thousands of Finns are fed up with Daylight Saving Time (DST), the nearly-global practice of changing clocks twice a year - one hour backwards in autumn, and one hour forward during spring.

More than 70,000 Finns have signed a citizens' initiative, aiming to convince lawmakers to get rid of the bi-annual ritual, which was presented to Arto Satonen, the second deputy speaker of parliament on Thursday.

The minimum number of signatures a citizens' initiative requires to be brought to parliament is 50,000.

Advocates and opponents

The idea of saving daylight by changing everyone's clocks was originated by the US inventor and Renaissance man Benjamin Franklin in 1784, who wanted to cut down on the use of candles.

DST in Finland doesn't have a terribly long history. The first time the country tried turned the clocks forward for the summer was during the First World War - but the practice had been growing around the world by that time already.

After years of experimentation with DST, it was only in 1981 that Finland began utilising it on a regular basis.

The original idea behind seasonally changing the clocks was to take advantage of the day's brightest hours. DST advocates have claimed that the practice saves electricity and even that it increases people's leisure time when the sun is shining.

Proponents of doing away with DST contend that the system causes more problems than it solves. Advocates of the citizens' initiative say that DST causes unnecessary hassles with train, bus and air travel schedules. The authors of the initiative also noted that many clocks do not switch automatically to DST.

What are the effects?

But studies have shown that DST may be more than just an inconvenience - some say it could even be unhealthy.

In 2016 researchers from Turku University examined whether there was a connection between DST and an increase in heart attacks, but - apart from the time of year heart attacks took place - no conclusive connection could be made.

Others in the anti-DST corner say that people's circadian rhythms are disturbed by the practice of switching the time back and forth, and that it takes people several days to adjust to the changes twice a year.

A labour against time

Finland's proponents for the elimination of DST are not alone. Just last week lawmakers in the US state of California's state Assembly approved an effort that could end with the state dumping the practice, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the article, the bill is headed to California's state Senate, where a similar effort died last year. The paper noted that even if the proposal does get state approval, California residents would still be unable to stop changing their clocks, without a law change on the federal level.

Similarly in Finland, even if the anti-DST citizens' initiative causes Finnish lawmakers to make a change, the country remains obligated to EU directives about timekeeping. But the parliament could issue a statement to the EU about the issue.

Hundreds of citizens' initiatives have been carried out since the petition-based lawmaking system was started in 2012, but so far only one actually made it through parliament to change legislation - the legalisation of same sex marriage in 2014.

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