The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 31 May 2017

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Americas assemble

The OAS is meeting to agree its response to the mounting turmoil in Venezuela – another thing the troubled government doesn’t need right now.

Foreign ministers from the Organization of American States (OAS) will gather in Washington today to discuss the spiralling political situation in Venezuela. The economic crisis and increasingly authoritarian power grab by president Nicolás Maduro have unleashed mass protests across the country and the OAS, made up of 35 nations from across the Americas, will look to hash out a response. When the meeting was proposed last month, Venezuela’s foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez (pictured) promptly announced that the country would withdraw from the group, claiming that the US-based organisation undermined its sovereignty. The move isn’t all that surprising: with no sign of the unrest at home dying down, Maduro’s embattled government is desperate for legitimacy and a co-ordinated rebuke by the region’s leaders is the last thing it needs.

Environment

Image: Getty Images

One fine day

As well as bringing out the barbecues, the UK’s recent sunny spell has boosted its solar-energy use. But are there clouds on the horizon?

On the rare occasions that the UK experiences a sunny and hot weekend there is now more to celebrate than the all-too-brief chance to head to the park or beach. As the country’s solar-energy capacity increases, new records are being set, with solar energy accounting for 24 per cent of the total demand on Saturday – the highest ever. But could this be as good as it gets? Britain’s planned exit from the EU in 2019 could lead the country to withdraw from EU-wide energy targets. While the current UK government is committed to them, there is no guarantee that future administrations would do the same. Either way, the UK may still have a long way to go before it hits the heights of Denmark or Germany, both of which have had entire days reliant only on renewable energy.

Transport

Image: Alamy

All smiles

After a rebrand, Hong Kong’s trams have been brought up to date with a facelift.

Hong Kong’s iconic double-decker trams have rolled into the 21st century with a new logo and visual identity. Out goes the fusty red-and-blue logo brought in 43 years ago and in comes a simple icon of a green tram, a colour synonymous with the original models from 1904 and a nod to its modern status as an environmentally friendly mode of transport. A dash of levity comes courtesy of a white smiley on the front bumper. “We wanted to convey the joy that passengers, tourists and even tram employees find when they hop on board,” says Stephen Barry, managing director of brand agency Stepworks, which redesigned the logo. “We also want to remind people, ourselves included, to slow down and smile more.” Speed and convenience may dominate in Hong Kong but the cheap and cheerful “ding dings” still transport 200,000 passengers a day along the northern strip of the island.

Culture

Image: Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

City break

An exhibition explores urban art in the US, from the country’s love of cars to its discarded American Dream.

A new exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum in St Louis examines how we can read the US’s history – and upheavals – in the design of its cities. Urban Planning: Art and the City 1967–2017 includes sculptures, drawings, photographs, films and installations by key figures in US art from the past 50 years. Ed Ruscha’s shots of LA carparks and Catherine Opie’s “Freeway” series take a critical eye to the nation’s car-centric culture, while works by Edgar Arceneaux and Sara VanDerBeek explore how Detroit’s social fabric has evolved despite the city’s fall from industrial grace. Abigail DeVille’s site-specific installation “St. Louis Blues” (pictured), on the other hand, brings the city’s own urban waste into focus by appropriating its rubbish; the birthplace of the national highway system is portrayed as a city where the American Dream was also discarded along the way.

From Monocle 24

Beirut Design Week 2017

Section D

Now in its sixth year, the Lebanese fair was called ‘Is design a need?’ Far from flogging furniture, the event sought to stimulate wider social, political, environmental and technological discussions around design.

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