Thursday 24 August 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 24/8/2023

The Monocle Minute

Breaking news

A plane which reportedly carried Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has crashed in Russia. For updates tune in to ‘The Globalist’, on Monocle Radio at 07.00 am London time.

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Park strife

Next week, Milan will start to creak back to life. For now, the city still feels post-apocalyptic, with diminished traffic and shops that are pegged with the handwritten declaration “chiuso per ferie” (closed for holidays). After three years, I’m still getting used to spending August in Milan. Next summer, I might try to renegotiate my contract to temporarily become a correspondent in South Tyrol or Sardinia. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

You have to marvel at the cultural importance allotted to the summer holiday – and it’s not just Milan’s wealthy elite that are getting away. With property often kept in the same family for generations, there’s usually a shared lake house or beach pied-à-terre that extended relations can squeeze into to escape stifling urban temperatures.

If the mentality is to put things off until the beginning of September, what happens when something goes wrong? On 25 July, Milan suffered an intense storm in the middle of the night that caused millions of euros of damage and felled 5,000 trees. You wonder whether the slow clean-up process would have happened faster if it had not been the height of summer. Though Italy has had to deal with floods in Emilia-Romagna and extreme temperatures in the south, I like to think that other countries would have called in the army and quickly got things back on track.

Some 47 green spaces have now reopened to the public, though the city has kept its two largest parks closed to ensure that there is no risk of new trees falling on passersby. Yesterday, a visit to Porta Venezia’s Giardini Indro Montanelli showed that the gates were locked, with access only allowed to the park’s planetarium and natural history museum via metal barriers.

For those who haven’t been able to get away for the entirety of August, not having these green spaces has meant being deprived of a tree to shade under or a leafy track for an early morning run. City hall should have prioritised the quality of life of the people who stayed. This was one job that couldn’t wait.

Ed Stocker in Monocle’s Europe editor at large, based in Milan. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / China & North Korea

Air apparent

North Korea resumed international flights this week after a suspension of more than three years caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to reports, the purpose of the special Air Koryo flight from Pyongyang to Beijing was to provide students and diplomats, who had remained in China throughout the pandemic, with a way home.

“North Korean workers who have been stranded abroad can finally see their families,” John Everard, former UK ambassador to North Korea, tells The Monocle Minute. “It also means that normal diplomacy between the two countries can resume. Even the huge Russian and Chinese embassies in Pyongyang have been operating with only one ambassador and a handful of support staff. Companies in the tourism sector are hopeful that this is the first step towards allowing tour groups back into the country.”

Image: Mathew Scott

Politics / Dallas

Safe pair of hands

A recent poll by analytics company Gallup has revealed that the majority of Americans consider Dallas to be one of the country’s safest cities. Monocle sits down with its mayor, Eric Johnson, to discuss how his stance on public safety has helped him to win a second mandate, as well as the opportunities that the city offers.

What was your appeal to voters when you ran for a second term?
The coronavirus pandemic was a particularly challenging period and mayors from many major cities chose not to run for re-election. But I was able to convince the electorate to trust my judgement when it came to public safety, despite the conversation that was happening in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. My holding the line on public safety when it wasn’t popular, in combination with the fact that our economy really emerged from the pandemic before anyone else came out of it, caused people to feel good about public safety. When it came to deciding whether to re-elect their mayor, there was not a strong case to make for change.

How much of your job is trying to make the connections to give opportunity to the less-advantaged within Dallas?
I really believe that Dallas is a city of opportunity and that I fought really, really hard to make it even more so. I’m a living testament to what the city can provide. And I want to make sure that others have even better chances: they need better public schools; they need more investment in the infrastructure in their communities, particularly in the form of things like parks and places for children to play in; and they need to be safe.

What do you say about Gallup’s latest poll stating that Dallas is considered one of the safest cities in America?
That’s a testament to the work that our police department has put in, that we’ve put in as a community in supporting them and that the police-community relationship has brought about. We’ve turned it around on public safety. That’s a huge accomplishment and a major legacy that I’ll be happy to leave.

Join Mayor Johnson and Monocle’s editors live in Munich for Monocle’s Quality of Life Conference from Thursday 31 August to Saturday 2 September.Get your ticket now.

Image: Cargill

Maritime / Global

Ship shape

A new wind-powered freighter, built by the Mitsubishi Corporation, has begun its maiden voyage, retrofitted with two 37.5-metre-high sails. The Pyxis Ocean ship set sail from Singapore on Monday and is on course to Brazil, carrying 81,000 tonnes of cargo. Its sails have the ability the reduce the vessel’s dependence on its engine and cut fuel consumption by up to 30 per cent.

It is a significant first towards reshaping the shipping industry, which heavily relies on fossil fuels to transport 80 per cent of the world’s traded goods. “This is a great example of the kind of technology that will help to propel the industry into a carbon-neutral future,” Alex Herhsam, CEO and co-founder of digital freight forwarder Zencargo, tells The Monocle Minute. “While scalability and efficiency hurdles remain for new technologies such as this, this is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Image: Jesús Granada

Libraries / Barcelona

Novel concept

A Barcelona library, named after Gabriel García Márquez and specialising in Latin American literature, has been declared Public Library of the Year. Located in the city’s working-class Sant Martí district, Biblioteca Gabriel García Márquez was described as “an architectural and functional marvel” by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

At an event in Rotterdam, the group praised the library for the flexibility of its spaces and services, its interaction with the environment and local culture, and its commitment to learning. The building itself was designed to resemble a stack of books and has received a Gold LEED award for green architecture. Nobel laureate Garcia Márquez lived in Barcelona for nearly a decade and the library runs a community radio station named after a fictitious village in his most famous novel. The building should serve as an important reminder of the power of public spaces.

Image: Alvaro Catalán de Ocón

Monocle Radio / On Design

Tosin Oshinowo and the PET lamp

Tosin Oshinowo shares how she scaled her architectural firm and product designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón celebrates 10 years of the PET lamp.

Monocle Films / Travel

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.


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