Monday. 1/11/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Ploughing on

As an Australian, one of the “treats” I enjoy when we visit my partner’s family in Minnesota at Christmas is clearing snow from the driveway. Often it’s with a shovel but if I’m lucky and there’s been a heavy fall, I’ll get a turn on the ride-on-plough. For me, it’s a novelty to play in a winter wonderland but for people who live in the Minneapolis suburbs it has long felt like a chore. The same goes for many snowy cities where the expectation is that residents must clear snow from the footpaths and public spaces adjacent to their homes and businesses.

It’s a situation that transport-advocacy group Better Streets Chicago is petitioning its own city hall to change. A petition, which will be presented to mayor Lori Lightfoot, calls on the city to remove the snow-clearing burden from residents and put the onus of responsibility on the municipality by 2022. At present, the City of Chicago only clears roads, leaving most parking lanes, bus stops, bike racks and footpaths for the community to clear. And while encouraging people to take ownership of public space is a good thing, the reality is that it’s a significant ask. According to Better Streets Chicago, it also leads to inconsistently cleared footpaths, with snow piles from cleared streets pushed into public spaces. On occasion, this blocks access to public bus stops and makes mobility difficult for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Lightfoot would be wise to listen to the petition and look to the cities in Canada, Sweden and Finland where this is commonplace. It’s a measure that would make Chicago a walkable and, by extension, more equitable winter city. And for those residents who feel they will miss clearing the snow? I’m sure my in-laws in Minnesota would be happy to hear from you.

Image: Getty Images

Climate / Global

Fair share

After the G20 meeting of the world’s wealthiest nations in Rome this weekend, attention turns to the long-awaited UN climate summit, Cop26, in Glasgow. Developing countries will be pressing their concerns and climate financing remains a key sticking point. In 2009 developed countries agreed to raise $100bn (€85bn) every year from 2020 to 2024 to support developing countries: a target that they are on track to miss. Key stakeholders representing some of the world’s poorest nations will be pushing richer countries to honour their pledge – and go beyond it. An alliance of African member states has called for the target to be raised more than tenfold by 2030. “Countries with developed economies carry the greatest responsibility for climate change as they have historically been the biggest polluters,” South African president Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured) said in the lead-up to the summit. “This is why wealthier countries have an obligation to provide significant financial support in order for developing countries to adapt.”

Image: Getty Images

Health / China

Waiting game

There are fewer than 100 days to go until the Beijing Winter Olympics and China remains one of the last countries with a zero-tolerance policy towards coronavirus. That’s why the country is rolling out mass testing, community lockdowns and travel stoppages to clamp down on a new outbreak of just 250 cases in the past 10 days. But can it really contain the virus in the run-up to the Games? “If China chooses to, it could maintain the zero-coronavirus approach indefinitely,” Benjamin Cowling, a public health epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, tells The Monocle Minute.

The main costs are economic, as lockdowns disrupt business and quarantines affect tourism. And while it’s a point of pride for Beijing to have hosted both a summer and winter Olympic Games, the zero-tolerance policy means that this could be the last global event staged in the country for the foreseeable future. “It’s going to be difficult to hold major events in China as long as the zero-coronavirus policy continues,” says Cowling.

Image: Alamy

Transport / France

Alpine tracks

Privatised rail transport in France? You must be fou. It’s no secret that the French are proud of their public rail network and the flagship train à grande vitesse, or TGV. But now one corner of southern France has opted to go private, with changes planned for 2025. Elected members of the sunny Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region recently gave the green light to plans for a line between Marseille and Nice to be operated by private firm Transdev, ending SNCF’s monopoly. The line is responsible for 10 per cent of the region’s traffic and will be an interesting testing ground for privately run rail travel in France. As the first region within France to go down this route, the question remains as to whether others will follow suit. Is Transdev feeling the pressure to perform? Well, for one, it has already announced plans to double the amount of daily return journeys on the line.

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / USA

Buffalo wins

Voters in the US city of Buffalo, New York, go to the polls tomorrow after one of the most unusual mayoral races in recent memory. Incumbent Byron Brown, first elected in 2005, suffered a shock defeat in the Democratic primary in June when his socialist challenger, India Walton, won the party’s nomination. In response, Brown is running as a write-in candidate, meaning that voters will have to write his name on the ballot themselves. Walton, a newcomer to politics, has run a polished campaign and would become the first socialist mayor of a major US city since the 1960s; recent endorsements by progressive US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the most senior Democrat in the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, have boosted her bid. “It has certainly captured the attention of this city like nothing I’ve seen before in a mayoral election,” Robert McCarthy, veteran political reporter at the The Buffalo News, tells The Monocle Minute. “There’s a lot at stake.”

To hear more on Buffalo’s mayoral election, listen to Monday’s edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle 24

M24 / Eureka

Eym

Poppy and Sam Wall are the husband-and-wife team behind natural-fragrance brand Eym. They came up with the idea when Poppy was pregnant and researching some of the negative effects of synthetic candles. The couple created and launched the business in the UK but now run it from their home in Sydney.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle Preview: November issue, 2021

Monocle’s picture-perfect November issue is a design special that sketches out the future of concrete and visits a Gio Ponti gem in Paris. Elsewhere, we take to the skies in an airship and tuck in to Berlin’s best Currywurst. Yum!

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