Monday. 7/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Losing his voice

Joe Biden (pictured) says that tomorrow’s midterm elections are an existential fight for American democracy, so why does that not seem to be energising voters? I suspect that they’re exhausted. Over and over again, they’ve been told that the soul of the country is at stake. No doubt, many are rightly worried about the potential for political extremism, even violence in the years ahead. This is no small threat but in their living rooms right now Americans are sweating the relatively smaller stuff: the safety of their communities, their livelihoods and their cities.

No one knows where the US will end up on Wednesday morning or whether the House of Representatives or Senate will turn from blue to red; undecided voters have become remarkably tight-lipped. One CNN reporter has taken to hanging around Costco car parks because wholesale shopping, for some reason, appears to make people want to get things off their chest. Travelling around the country though, in blue states and red, I hear people voice day-to-day worries ­– about crime especially – often in hushed tones, perhaps for fear of looking like they have been drawn into the debate by the endless Republican messaging on it.

Above all, voters want to know that their leaders are listening and that they have a plan. The irony, of course, is that human-scale policy stuff is exactly where Democrats have had success in the past two years. Biden’s White House has seen key bills passed by a Senate that’s balanced on a knife edge and set the stage for long overdue investments in infrastructure, mobility and meaningful welfare reform. Most Americans, however, simply don’t know that much about it. The president has been a poor messenger, especially in the run-up to these midterms, where he could help his party’s cause by pointing to successes and reassuring voters that there is more to come if Democrats hang onto the levers of power. If several polls are right, however, getting things over the line is about to become much harder.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor.

Environment / Egypt

Reasons to be cheerful

Cop27 got underway in Sharm El-Sheikh yesterday following a gloomy build-up. The UN has branded the global effort to cut emissions as “woefully inadequate” but there are some reasons to be optimistic. While the Russia-Ukraine war has sent energy prices soaring, it has also accelerated a global push towards a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system in the longer term. “Energy markets and policies have changed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being but for decades to come,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, the OECD’s energy watchdog, this week. With many European nations temporarily restarting coal-fired power stations in breach of climate pledges, leaders will have to double down on finding long-term solutions. As renewable-energy installations multiply around the world and more countries pledge to curb greenhouse gas emissions, observers will hope that Cop27 spurs both world leaders to build on last year’s momentum and business leaders to further invest in clean energy.

To follow live coverage and analysis from Cop27, tune in to Monocle 24 this week and next.

Image: Dufour Aerospace

Aviation / Switzerland & USA

Going up

Late last week, Spright, the drone division of US medical helicopter company Air Methods, said that it had bought 40 Aero2 electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) from Swiss company Dufour Aerospace. For the uninitiated, eVTOLs can vary but they are usually aircraft fitted with a tilting row of propellers that allow them to take off like a drone. The Aero2 looks a little like someone introduced a snowboard to a glider and measures little more than an adult human. It can fly for three hours in hybrid mode and carry up to 40kg – perfect for quickly transporting life-saving medical supplies.

“Spright's commitment shows that there is great market potential for Aero2 when it comes to safe and efficient medium- and long-range operations with unmanned aerial vehicles,” said Dufour Aerospace co-founder and CEO Thomas Pfammatter. We can expect to see more eVTOLs in future: several companies are spending billions on people-carrying models, arguing that they are safer than helicopters and more environmentally friendly than aeroplanes. Watch this (air)space.

Image: Alamy

Culture / Germany

Energy savers

The German government will give its cultural institutions €1bn to help mitigate the rising cost of energy as part of the country’s updated Economic Stabilisation Fund. A pandemic measure launched in 2020, the fund has been repurposed in an effort to soften the effect of the ongoing energy crisis. Various sectors of the German economy have been left reeling since Russia effectively cut off the country’s gas supply.

Cultural institutions, such as cinemas, theatres and museums, often have less of a financial buffer than other businesses and “do not have the means to deal with the crisis in their budgets,” said Germany’s culture minister Claudia Roth (pictured) in a statement. While the government has brought in measures to help households, it has also encouraged citizens to cut back on consumption. In that context, it is reassuring to see policymakers safeguarding a sector that, figuratively speaking, brings light into people’s lives during what might be a gloomy winter.

Image: Kohei Take

Architecture / Japan

Discreet design

The architecture of Kyoto, with its austere walls of latticed wood that reveal nothing of the delights beyond the front door, has been developed over the years by those who value their privacy. Architect Hiroshi Nakamura borrowed from this traditional style for his newly built Iwakura House (pictured) on a residential street in northern Kyoto. “I want to make buildings that are right for the location,” he says. “It’s about using regional methods and learning from local customs and behaviour.”

The rafters and pillars are made from red sugi cedar from the nearby Kitayama forests. Nakamura requested untreated wood free from chemicals, preferring to let nature play its role in the ageing process. Wide oak floorboards provide a modern touch and a moss-covered mound presides over the garden, while traditional washitsu tatami rooms have been kept minimal with sliding doors covered with paper that is made locally by hand. For all its discretion, the Iwakura House immediately improves the streetscape.

To read the full story, pick up your copy of Monocle’s November issue, which is on sale now.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Gabon’s pop charts

Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top songs in Gabon.

Monocle Films / Denmark

Community spirit in Denmark

Housing co-operatives are numerous in Denmark, providing residents with affordable places to live, keeping community spirit strong and cultivating samfundssind: the Danish concept of putting society’s needs ahead of individual interests. Monocle visited the Jystrup Savværk co-housing community, an hour outside of Copenhagen, to explore the meaning of the word.

Discover more stories and ideas from the region with ‘The Monocle Book of the Nordics’, which is available now from The Monocle Shop.

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