Wednesday 9 December 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 9/12/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Clearer thinking

Air pollution in urban areas isn’t just hard on residents; it also plays a key role in driving up global temperatures. As a result, improving air quality in cities the world over is crucial in helping to slow that change. Some metropolitan areas are outperforming others: in Asia, Japan’s cities lead the way in reducing air pollution. That’s why academics at Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology are pushing for the formation of a Clean Air Partnership between India and Japan, building on a previous relationship between the Indian capital and Fukuoka in western Japan.

The partnership would see an exchange of ideas and best practices between the countries, pushing their cities to combat air and environmental pollution. It’s set to be particularly beneficial for India, whose cities can emulate Japan’s approach to modernising waste-management systems and rolling out pollution monitoring networks – both of which contributed enormously to improvements in air quality in Japanese cities.

The concern here, of course, is that sharing knowledge doesn’t necessarily lead to decisive action. Which is why I’d suggest the partnership could be taken a step further: rather than just sharing ideas, why not share people and resources too? Japan could send its top scientists to work in Indian universities and even send rubbish-collection workers to the subcontinent. The smart, sky-blue uniforms and hybrid waste-collection trucks of Tokyo plying the streets of Delhi (pictured) could not only help to curb local air and environmental pollution but also serve as a reminder that cities – while playing a key role on their own – are part of a global cooling solution.

Image: Paulius Staniunas

Elections / Indonesia

Family value

Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (pictured) has declared today as a public holiday, enabling voters to take part in regional elections. Ordinarily this boost for democracy would be widely supported but a high turnout at polling stations could worsen what is already one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. Jokowi’s handling of the health crisis has attracted criticism and his cabinet is mired in a corruption scandal tied to the pandemic. Attention is also falling on his family’s fortunes: eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka is following in his father’s footsteps by running for mayor of Surakarta. Gibran’s expected victory would be both a proud and potentially embarrassing moment for the president. Jokowi made his name as a political outsider, challenging the family dynasties long at the centre of power in Jakarta and vowing that his own children wouldn’t benefit from his position. After a difficult start to his second term, Jokowi needs to show voters that he keeps his promises.

Image: Getty Images

Media / Germany

Pay per view

Germany is already home to one of the world’s most expensive public broadcasters, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a proposal to increase monthly radio licensing fees from €17.50 to €18.36 is facing some resistance. Broadcasters ARD (pictured), ZDF and Deutschlandradio say that they need the money to survive but the Saxony-Anhalt parliament, which has to approve the increase along with all 16 German state parliaments, is sceptical.

Adding fuel to the fire is the far-right AfD party, which opposes the increase, arguing not just that it’s too expensive but also that the stations are left-wing and overly focused on western Germany. AfD’s view has put other major parties in the state, who refuse to work with the AfD, in an uncomfortable position. Added to that is a certain taboo around Germany’s public broadcasters, which, unlike those in the UK or Switzerland, are rarely criticised. At Monocle we’re fans of well-run public broadcasters but that doesn’t mean that they should be impervious to criticism.

Image: Alamy

Business / Global

Shanghai surprise

The Japanese Mori Memorial Foundation’s annual Global Power City Index has a more entrepreneurial lean than many annual city rankings. Whereas at Monocle we focus on all-round liveability, Mori highlights “magnetism”, judging how attractive the world’s top metropolises are on metrics that include economics and innovation. The top five cities are stable and unsurprising – London, New York, Tokyo, Paris and Singapore – but notable is the arrival of Shanghai, which surged from 30th place into the number 10 spot, kicking Sydney out of the top group in the process. Some of this ascent is related to the pandemic: taking into account the fact that more people are working from home, Mori added a measure on broadband speeds to its component on city workplace options. Elsewhere, a lack of in-person cultural events and fairs will have skewed the results. Nevertheless, it’s a sign that Shanghai, despite the country’s more questionable politics, means business.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Vancouver

Fair price

Positive cases of “expropriation” are rare but Vancouver’s takeover of the Balmoral (pictured) and Regent hotels – two dilapidated single-room-occupancy properties in the Downtown Eastside that have long been plagued by fire and safety violations – has been met with resounding approval. The historic hotels, closed since 2017 and 2018 as the city deemed them unsafe for occupancy, seemed to encapsulate the poor living conditions that many low-income residents grappled with in the area. The city of Vancouver announced late last week that it had reached a settlement with the proprietor of the hotels, the Sahota family, to take ownership a little more than a year after the city council unanimously voted to expropriate the properties for a mere $1 (€0.64) each. The Sahotas subsequently launched a court challenge to fight the move, which led to a confidential settlement. So what happens now? The city plans to turn the buildings’ combined 300 or so rooms into much-needed social housing in one of Canada’s priciest property markets.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Jonathan Coe

Novelist Jonathan Coe joins Robert Bound to discuss his new book Mr Wilder and Me, a fictional depiction of a young woman who finds herself on a Greek island working for American film director Billy Wilder.

Monocle Films / Italy

Christmas shopping: Bassano del Grappa

Monocle Films indulges in a spot of festive retail in an idyllic Italian city. Join us for the best in fashion, books, sweets and more.


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