Friday. 17/12/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Natural habitat

There’s something idyllic about Richmond Park in southwest London. The largest of the capital’s royal parks, it’s an oasis for wildlife and a safe haven for a thriving population of deer. Every visit is a reminder that wilderness can also be part of city living and that you can get away from the hustle and bustle of London without ever actually leaving it. From sitting by the banks of the river Lea in Hackney Marshes to spotting woodpeckers on the trees in Regent’s Park, you’re only ever a short Tube ride away from seeing a completely different side of what most of us consider to be “urban”.

That’s why this week’s announcement of a plan to rewild parts of London is exciting. Mayor Sadiq Khan has approved £600,000 (€707,000) for the Rewilding Fund project, which will help to restore wildlife sites across the capital, increase biodiversity and plant green rooftops too. Under the new proposal, places such as Hyde Park (pictured) could see even lost species including beavers and stag beetles reintroduced, and help offered to birds seeking new homes, such as swifts.

In 2019 London officially signed on to become the world’s first “national park city”, a designation handed out by the National Park City Foundation to encourage cities to become greener and more biodiverse. The latest rewilding project has potential to continue that work and change what the city looks like, while helping to tackle air pollution and climate change too.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Netherlands

Spending time

After nine months of coalition talks, the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte (pictured, second from right) has finally formed a new government, making him the only prime minister to lead four administrations and keeping him the second-longest currently-serving EU leader. Rutte’s new four-way coalition includes his liberal VVD, the centrist D66, the Christian Democratic CDA and the Christian Union. And while the leader’s past instinct has been to join with the frugal northern bloc of EU nations, his new government promises to break free from the spending shackles on everything from housing to defence and climate. “Rutte is changing constantly while staying Rutte: he’s like an eel in a bucketful of snot,” Stefan de Vries, European affairs correspondent for Euronews, tells Monocle. The question is whether he’ll take this slippery approach to Brussels, where leaders have been holding their final summit of the year this week. With the recent departure of Angela Merkel and Rutte’s new approach, the thrifty northern bloc is losing its biggest proponents.

Hear more from Stefan de Vries on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Arts / USA

Secret history

The debate over looted antiquities is a long and complicated one (read about the spat between the UK and Greece over the Elgin marbles in Monocle’s December/January issue). But this week’s return of 200 antiquities valued at $10m (€8.8m) from the US to Italy centres on far more recent history and the actions of one individual in particular. According to Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vince, 150 of the works in question are linked to former US-residing Italian dealer Edoardo Almagià, who is being investigated for trafficking.

The pieces have been handed back from museums ranging from the Getty in Los Angeles (pictured) to New York’s Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art. It’s not the first time that modern-day trafficking to the US has led to such repatriations to Italy but it is the largest instance. Though it’s a bitter pill to swallow for cultural institutions that have their collections depleted, it would be hard to argue against the decision.

Image: Alamy

Transport / Austria

No way

The Austrian government has rounded out the year by putting the brakes on eight highway-construction projects in the country. The move is led by The Greens, the junior partner in a ruling coalition with the conservative People’s Party, and is aimed at reducing carbon emissions by making driving less appealing. This isn’t about making driving impossible, rather it’s about curbing excess. Urbanists have long highlighted the problem of induced demand: the more roads you build, the more cars appear to drive on them. But to really convince the public to seek alternatives, it has to be accompanied by investment in other forms of transport. Funds initially earmarked for road-making could be redirected to further improving the country’s 5,000km-long rail network – another priority of the Greens. The goal should be that, new roads or not, taking the train in Austria would be the more appealing choice.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Hong Kong

Foregone conclusion

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections on Sunday is the first ballot since the government passed far-reaching voting reforms in May, focused on ensuring a “patriots only” legislature. Pale-green posters have covered billboards, buses, trams and subway stops across the city for weeks, advertising the polling day and urging voters to “improve the electoral system” and “ensure patriots are administering Hong Kong”. Between the May overhaul and mass arrests of prominent pro-democracy politicians in recent months, pro-establishment candidates won’t be facing much competition for seats. Chief executive Carrie Lam (pictured) dismissed concerns of a low voter turnout last week, telling Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times that it could be seen as proof that the government is doing well, because people aren’t heading to the polls to choose different representatives. Contradicting those words, four people were arrested on Wednesday for allegedly encouraging others to boycott the vote or cast blank ballots in protest; three were arrested in November for the same charge.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Craven Dunnill Jackfield

Simon Howells is the managing director of Craven Dunnill Jackfield, a company that has been making handmade ceramic tiles to decorate public spaces, homes and hospitality establishments since it was founded in 1872. On the eve of its 150th anniversary, Howells discusses some of the company’s many projects, including dozens of London Underground stations, the Houses of Parliament and the food hall at Harrods.

Monocle Films / Global

Japanese gift-wrapping: Lesson 5

If you’re looking to up your wrap game this year, we recommend furoshiki – a Japanese approach that’s stood the test of time for centuries. This cotton square is especially handy when wrapping soft or oddly shaped gifts. For an indulgent bundle, we suggest Arpenteur wool jacket, soft corduroy De Bonne Facture trousers and a cosy beanie from Organics Basics. Your loved ones deserve a treat. Find your perfect gift at The Monocle Shop.

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