Thursday. 7/5/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Fit to burst

The fact that Londoners have been allowed to head to a park for a run during lockdown has been a source of envy for my Italian friends and family. In Italy a nationwide crusade against runners and their potential for spreading the illness led to parks being closed and jogging only being allowed within 200 metres of people’s homes.

As they emerge from their two-month isolation this week, many Italians are ready to wear Lycra once again – some will do so with a little extra dedication if they feel the need to make up for sins of gluttony. As enthusiasm for home-cooking waned, well-intentioned resolutions to eat healthily wore off in favour of stuffing one’s face with chocolate and sweets, which sounds familiar to me too. According to the Coldiretti agriculture association, sales of desserts and microwave meals have grown in the bel paese over the past few weeks and sales of pizza dough that’s ready to be topped and shoved in the oven rose by a whopping 38 per cent.

So if quarantine has left you with little in the way of crafty new skills but instead bestowed you with a new potbelly, fear not – you’re not alone. We all know that food is a brilliant and effective source of comfort during tough times. But as I don my own pair of tight leggings, I have to remind myself that exercise is supposed to be good for the mood too.

Trade / USA

Hidden agenda

About 100 representatives of the US and UK met virtually this week to begin negotiating a free-trade deal between the two countries. After Barack Obama famously said during his presidency that the UK would fall to the back of the queue for a trade deal if it ever left the EU, Donald Trump has promised to fast-track the talks. Vicky Pryce, former head of the UK’s Government Economic Service, says that Westminster probably hopes to leverage that reversal into pressure on the EU to agree its own trade deal with the UK before the end of the year. But Trump’s “America First” platform won’t make it easy – especially in an election year. “The UK might not have much of a negotiating stance to fall back on at all if the US makes demands that the UK can’t actually meet,” Pryce told Monocle 24’s The Globalist.

Energy / Australia

Ray of light

A greener economy has long been touted as something to strive for and Queensland, Australia’s second-largest state, appears intent on leading the way. The construction of a 460 megawatt solar farm was given the go-ahead yesterday; once completed it will be the country’s largest, producing enough energy to power about 235,000 homes. Queensland’s state government is aiming to ensure that 50 per cent of the region’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2030; this news suggests that the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic won’t serve as an excuse for missing that target.

It helps that the cost of solar and wind power have fallen so much that they are now among the world’s cheapest energy sources, says Akshat Rathi, climate and energy reporter for Bloomberg. “A single solar plant is not likely to have that much of an impact,” he says. “But [this project] is a signal that renewables are still being preferred because they are bringing in foreign investment and creating jobs.”

Media / USA

Exclusive company

The story of Catherine Pugh is as curious as her series of self-published children’s books. As was proven in court, the former mayor of Baltimore (pictured) had forged deals with Maryland’s health system – among other foundations – effectively forcing it to buy 100,000 copies of her Healthy Holly book and helping her to net hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits. Pugh resigned in May 2019 and was sentenced in February to three months in prison. The scandal was unearthed by reporters at The Baltimore Sun newspaper, who this week were awarded the Pulitzer prize for local reporting. This category is, arguably, one of the organisation’s most significant, shining a light on stories that might not always garner national attention but nonetheless serve the communities in which they unfolded. As regional news outlets face an outsized impact from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, perhaps next year’s Pulitzer can recognise the reporters who have sought to bring clarity during the crisis.

Fashion / Global

Catwalk away

Milan has announced that its forthcoming June fashion week will take place online. It joins Shanghai, which in April hosted the first ever virtual fashion week, and London, which is also going digital in June. Runway shows have long been criticised by some for being wasteful and ineffective, making these online events an interesting experiment. But fashion weeks consisting entirely of virtual catwalks and showrooms are surely a short-term fix rather than a viable long-term option. How do buyers assess collections when they can’t touch fabrics or see the details up close? Can online shows ever create the sense of atmosphere to rival their physical counterparts? That’s not to mention all the networking that goes on at, and between, shows. Looking further ahead, real-world runway shows will be back – but, increasingly, they might become the domain of only the most powerful brands with the means to make a splash.

M24 / On Design

Health and architecture

We examine the link between buildings and wellbeing, find out how tuberculosis shaped modern architecture and speak to designer Ilse Crawford about the importance of materials. Plus: Josh Fehnert is joined by Nic Monisse to talk about how the notion of home and our relationship with the outdoors is changing.

Film / Global

Healthy cities: vim and vigour

Across the world governments and developers are waking up to the fact that healthier cities are happier ones. We touch down in three very different destinations to admire some of the best urban design initiatives.

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