Wednesday. 17/6/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Tipping the scales

It seems strange to me that this week’s US Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ rights – in which the country’s top justices declared that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal – was unexpected by so many. More surprising is that, in 2020, a ruling on overt discrimination would even be required. So it was all the more refreshing that such a landmark result was not a split decision among the court’s nine justices but rather a six-to-three ruling; two Republican-appointed justices voted in favour and the opinion itself was written by Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee to the court.

If the past few weeks of global protest have taught us anything, it’s that one of the problems our society faces today is implicit bias and systemic – rather than overt – discrimination. The fact is that, in many Western societies, most laws that directly discriminate against people on race, gender or sexual orientation have, thankfully, been done away with. What is left are laws that discriminate indirectly. For example, Gorsuch backed Trump’s travel ban against mostly Muslim-majority countries in 2018 because it didn’t overtly target religion. There are also unconscious biases that many of us can harbour without even realising.

Implicit bias and less overt forms of discrimination can’t as easily appear before the Supreme Court. While it’s laudable that a company can no longer declare that it is firing (or not hiring) someone over race, gender or sexual orientation, that doesn’t mean that such decisions aren’t made with other explanations given. So let’s celebrate this week’s ruling – and then get back to the far harder job of confronting the discrimination that exists between the lines.

Aviation / Singapore

Safe travels

Singapore will be removing most of its coronavirus restrictions on Friday but not every workplace is preparing to reopen. Yesterday the government announced a “pause” on the construction of a huge terminal at Changi Airport (pictured) as it considers the post-pandemic future of aviation. According to transport minister Khaw Boon Wan, Terminal 5 will have to be redesigned to take account of passenger-safety requirements. The rub? These guidelines might not be in place for several years. Downing tools should also give the government an opportunity to address the safety and wellbeing of the 20,000 workers who are expected to be involved in construction; many are part of Singapore’s foreign labourer community and live in cramped dormitories that have been badly affected by a second wave of coronavirus cases in the city-state. A standard-setting infrastructure project at Changi could help the Lion City reclaim its title as a regional leader in more ways than one.

Space / UAE

One small step

The UAE is preparing to become the first Arab country to send a spacecraft to the Red Planet. The Emirates Mars Mission, which is also known as Al Amal (Hope), is expected to launch on 15 July after six years of planning. The unmanned probe will travel almost 500,000,000km before it begins to orbit Mars at the start of 2021.

“It tested our capabilities across the organisation,” Sarah al-Amiri, the UAE’s minister for advanced sciences and the programme’s deputy project manager, told The Briefing. “[The mission] is not only about declaring arrival at another planet but also about collecting valuable data that scientists require around the world.” Indeed, its success would represent a huge achievement for both the small Gulf nation and the scientific community as a whole.

Media / Global

Hot topic

The first issue of Bloomberg Green, a quarterly print magazine about climate issues by Bloomberg, will be published this month. The publication aims to differentiate itself from the usual apocalyptic stories about the subject by making a more positive contribution. “The tone can’t be all serious or very scary the whole time,” says editor Aaron Rutkoff. “As someone who has been following and creating climate journalism for years, I always thought that was a challenge. But I try to incorporate ideas of climate solutions into our storytelling so that not all stories end with the end of the world.” The first issue tackles how governmental financial aid prompted by coronavirus can be used to combat climate change. And, of course, the title is printed on 100 per cent recycled paper. Listen to the full interview with Rutkoff on Saturday’s edition of The Stack, Monocle 24’s weekly show about all things print.

Urbanism / Iraq

Recovery time

The end of lockdown will be especially welcome for the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, as it has prompted the resumption of a vast conservation project to restore its historic old quarter, which was reduced to rubble in the efforts to reclaim the city from Isis in 2017. Like many countries, Iraq struggled during the pandemic with curfews, lockdowns and discontent over its government’s response. But under a Unesco initiative called Revive the Spirit of Mosul, reconstruction efforts are now back under way. The scheme is not just focused on the built environment: the three main areas of activity encompass heritage, education and culture. It’s an international effort that involves funding from Germany, the EU and the UAE. And with shops slowly returning to areas surrounding the regeneration zone, the project already seems to be having both an aesthetic and social impact on one of the world’s oldest cities.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 211: Kolonihaver, Copenhagen

Monocle’s Michael Booth takes us for a walk in a uniquely Danish version of what you might recognise as an allotment.

Monocle Films / Switzerland

The Chiefs: Monocle summit in St Moritz

The past few months have shown us that there’s no substitute for face-to-face conversations. As we begin to look forward with optimism, there are opportunities to be discussed, ideas to be shared and challenges to be met. Join us this September in the Swiss Alps for inspiring discussions, great hospitality and new connections. Get your ticket here.

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