Monday 17 May 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 17/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Ed Stocker

In it together

Once any news-cycle event starts to repeat itself with enough regularity, the world’s attention – accustomed to clicking, swiping and skimming – moves on to the next hot-button issue. During the six years that I lived in the US, I lost count of the number of mass shootings and cases of police overreach, blurred by the inability of politicians to achieve tangible solutions. The same is currently happening with Europe’s migrant crisis, which has shown no sign of abating despite attention being diverted by coronavirus (and, in the past week, by the re-emergence of another age-old conflict in the Middle East).

It has been nearly six years since graphic images of three-year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi’s washed-up body shocked the world. Yet today many people have slipped into issue fatigue and the world’s media has gone back to under-reporting the problem. In Italy, warmer weather means that the matter is returning to the headlines as thousands have started to arrive in makeshift vessels on the shores of the southern island of Lampedusa (pictured). This year more than 13,000 people have crossed from Libya and Tunisia – significantly up on 2020 – including more than 2,100 in one 24-hour period at the start of last week.

The issue once again threatens to expose the EU’s frailties. Recovering from its poor handling of vaccine rollout, the migrant crisis is exposing the limits of a so-called shared responsibility in which some don’t want to share responsibility at all (Austria has already ruled out taking in any of the current arrivals). Successive Italian governments have also failed to find a solution to the problem. What’s more, prime minister Mario Draghi’s cobbled-together coalition government – which includes technocrats as well as the leftist Democratic Party, the populist Five Star Movement and the far-right Lega party – all have radically different views on migration and immigration. Reaching a new European consensus starts with giving the crisis renewed priority, whether it’s currently in the headlines or not.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Arctic

Frosty reception

This week, ministers from the Arctic Council, an eight-country intergovernmental forum, come together in Reykjavík to mark the end of Iceland’s two-year chairmanship of the council. Russia, which is taking over as chair, is sending foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (pictured), who will meet his new US counterpart Antony Blinken for the first time. The encounter comes amid tense relations and a series of diplomatic expulsions and sanctions between the two nations. The council meeting itself is about freedom of navigation for ships as the Arctic ice melts, as well as “boring but necessary nuts and bolts” issues around search-and-rescue co-ordination, according to Mark Galeotti, senior associate fellow at Rusi. But it might also prove an important litmus test for a forthcoming summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. “Lavrov can turn on the charm when he wants to,” Galeotti tells The Monocle Minute. “Observing Lavrov’s approach might give us a sense of how Moscow plans to play the Biden administration.”

Image: Getty Images

Society / Global

Pay it forward

Pensions have become ubiquitous in modern society but a forthcoming paper to be published in the American Economic Review finds that creating a modicum of stability for the elderly can have an unexpected detrimental effect on future generations. Natalie Bau, a development and education economist, studied the effect of introducing pensions in some developing countries with close family communities, such as Indonesia and Ghana (pictured), and found a surprising cultural knock-on.

It turns out that parents in such areas who know they will receive a pension – and therefore don’t need to rely as much on their children – invest less in their offspring’s education. Bau suggests “combining pension programmes with other policies”, such as educational investments, to counter the effect. A costly fix, perhaps, but a well-educated youth and economically independent elders can only pay dividends for a nation’s future.

Image: City of Toronto

Urbanism / Toronto

Off track

Rail Deck Park was one of the most ambitious public-space proposals in Toronto for several decades. The CA$1.7bn (€1.2bn) plan (pictured), launched in 2017, was to create a vast new park above the tracks of Toronto’s busiest rail corridor. But it was shelved late last week after a provincial tribunal ruled in favour of property developers who were found to own the “air rights” above the proposed site. It’s a disappointing outcome: the park would have invigorated a tower-dense part of Toronto and, more broadly, demonstrated how a city can transform a seemingly dead space above a piece of essential urban infrastructure into a place that’s open to everyone. While high-rise construction often seems to be a mark of confidence for a city, it shouldn’t come at the expense of imaginative new public spaces. Rail Deck Park’s cancellation is an opportunity missed.

Image: Hampus Berndtson

Design / Venice

Building bridges

Architects, curators, and design journalists – including a delegation from Monocle – will converge on Venice this week in the lead up to the official opening of the city’s Architecture Biennale on Saturday. For many of the architects participating, the event – with its country-specific pavilions (Denmark’s, pictured) – is unmissable.“It’s important to attend because the biennale offers a real seismograph of the mood of our profession and certain historical currents are often introduced in Venice first and most emphatically,” says Reinier de Graaf of Dutch design studio OMA, whose “Hospital of the Future” film will be exhibited at the Arsenale in Venice. Speaking to Monocle for our Venice Biennale Special Edition newspaper (appearing on newsstands around the city from Saturday), De Graaf adds that attending in person allows architects to remain at the cutting edge of their profession. “Oh, and it’s Venice at the start of the summer,” says De Graaf. “Let’s just say that there are worse places to be.” We couldn’t agree more – and look forward to renewing the discussion about the future of our cities.

Listen to Monocle 24 and read The Monocle Minute throughout this week for ongoing coverage of the Venice Biennale.

M24 / The Urbanist

Episode 500

In a special extended programme celebrating 500 episodes of The Urbanist, we reverse the roles and make Andrew Tuck the guest for a change. Join us as we take a sonic trip down memory lane and even bring you a blooper or two.

Monocle Films / France

Building safer cities

Monocle Films travels to Paris to bear witness to the French capital’s efforts to mitigate terrorism through smart design and architecture.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00