Wednesday. 8/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

The wetter the better

We are only one week into 2020 but, already, even some of the most ardent advocates of a dry January have fallen for the appeal of a glass of wine. If this is you then not to worry. The notion of giving up alcohol for a month after a period of revelry might seem a noble and healthy one but is it really?

It’s definitely not for many French citizens, including president Emmanuel Macron (pictured) who nixed a proposal this year for a public campaign over January to limit alcohol consumption. His move was swiftly endorsed by a grateful wine sector that does not want to see its sales drop – especially following a tough year of trade spats and threats of increased tariffs.

Dry January is perhaps more pertinent in countries with binge-drinking problems. But I am from Italy, where we generally take the time to enjoy a glass of something delicious. So why should we have to suffer along with the boozy Brits and beer-y Nordic folk? Especially as January is a dark, difficult month in the northern hemisphere and getting together around a table for dinner with friends with the joy of a bottle (just the one) is a tonic for the soul. Punishing yourself never really works. It’s time for a gentler approach – and a glass of something heartwarming.

Politics / Europe

Long goodbye

Ursula von der Leyen (pictured), president of the European Commission, heads to Downing Street today to open talks on the EU’s post-Brexit trade deal with the UK. Although it formally leaves the EU just three weeks from now, the UK will remain in the bloc’s customs union until the end of this year as part of a post-Brexit transition period. Boris Johnson has ruled out extending that transition beyond 2020 which, depending on your point of view, is either an optimistic or foolish commitment: trade deals between the EU and countries such as Canada and Singapore have taken up to seven years to be agreed. “Von der Leyen has been pretty clear that Johnson’s timescale is unrealistic,” says Quentin Peel, associate fellow with the Europe Programme at Chatham House. “From her perspective, it’s not worth endangering the deal for the sake of a deadline.” Expect another turbulent year in relations between London and Brussels.

Immigration / Canada

Bespoke solution

To many, Canada is already the world’s gold standard for the successful integration of immigrants and another clever policy is on its way: the Municipal Nominee Program. Designed to meet Canada’s labour shortage – the product of a fast-ageing population and slowing birth rate – the programme will allow the country’s smaller communities to handpick immigrants based on the skills that they need in the area. The programme was first teased by prime minister Justin Trudeau in his re-election bid in October and now, according to CBC News, the government is moving forward. Canada has long seen its rural populations shrink: most immigrants are clustered in major cities. This programme should help stem the rural decline, while also providing a clear path to steady employment for newcomers.

Technology / USA

Big fire, small engine

As CES, the world’s largest electronics show, swung into action in Las Vegas on Tuesday, there was a heartening story to be found among the endless swathes of bigger, brighter TVs and smart home gadgets you never knew you needed. It came courtesy of Japanese electronics giant Panasonic, which makes rechargeable batteries for shavers, laptops, cameras and cars. Now it has partnered with Tropos Motors to build a tiny fire engine, powered entirely by battery, that’s designed for narrow urban streets. And it’s adorable. Perfect for cramped cities, this new “right-sized” vehicle can whizz into the tiniest of alleys. It comes complete with a Panasonic Toughbook tablet to receive emergency-information updates and is on sale now. A regular fire engine can cost $500,000 (€450,000) but this mini version is just $50,000 (€45,000). It looks cute – and could save lives too.

Design / Frankfurt

How green is your fabric?

Heimtextil, which kicked off yesterday in Frankfurt, might not be the design industry’s biggest fair but it’s certainly setting the tone for a more thoughtful decade in furniture manufacturing. The fair highlights the latest and greatest wares within the textile industry, on which furniture brands rely heavily. Sustainability is topping the conversation in the halls of the Frankfurt Messe: the organisers have put an emphasis on pushing a greener image of what is historically a fairly dirty business. But discerning between good, new textiles – such as those made using bio-based materials – from those that are simply relying upon greenwashing in their marketing is just one of the challenges that furniture-makers are facing this decade. In an era of hyper-consciousness around consumption, furniture brands whose sustainability credentials have typically relied simply upon the “longevity” of their wares are going to have to try harder to cut their cloth to suit a more savvy customer base.

M24 / Monocle on Design

2020 vision

We look ahead to the standout design trends for the year ahead with architect Sir Peter Cook and design and craft writer Katie Treggiden.

Monocle Films / Global

Iceberg hunters

Monocle Films meets the little-known International Ice Patrol that is keeping ships safe as they navigate Atlantic waters.

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