Wednesday 24 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 24/4/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Stephanie Fuessenich

Society / Jason Farman

The waiting game

Since the invention of the atomic clock in 1949, time has been synchronised to the nanosecond across the globe. In the age of smartphones, access to your time is now at the behest of your employer, friends and the media. This shift has ushered in a new era of minutely regulated schedules and heightened expectations for timeliness, productivity and instant communication. Now our greatest fantasy is to eliminate waiting altogether. One glaring obstacle remains: the queue.

When we queue, it feels as though we are lending control of our time to another entity; waiting becomes an act of submission. Contrasted by the instant gratification offered by modern technologies, this submission feels like a waste of our most precious resource. Our schedules are crammed with plans and we react with hostility to anything that threatens them. The queue becomes the enemy and we either protest or unlock our phones to continue using our time in a manner that we believe is more productive.

It is easy to think that nothing is gained by waiting and sometimes that is true. But it is more than an obstruction in the way of our desires; it is a space that invites our imaginations to come alive. To wait is to charge the longed-for object with value. An eagerly anticipated letter from a lover is not the same as an instant message, even if the contents of the messages are identical. The food or drink made for you as you inch closer in a queue wouldn’t taste the same if it had just appeared before your eyes.

Think of waiting not as an obstacle but as an ingredient to cultivate. Tended to poorly, with bad queues or a lack of patience, it will sour everything. But observed well, it can make every moment of our lives taste sweeter.

Jason Farman is the author of ‘Delayed Response: The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World’. This piece features in Monocle’s May issue, which is out this week, and is part of our series on the merits, business and even politics of queuing. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Going with the flow: Ebrahim Raisi

Image: Alamy


Muddying the waters

Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, is in Sri Lanka today to inaugurate the Uma Oya Multipurpose project, an irrigation and hydropower site co-funded by Iran. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015 but was delayed as a result of US-imposed sanctions on Iran and an economic crisis in Sri Lanka. During the trip, Raisi is expected to sign five agreements in the technology and engineering sectors to boost bilateral relations.

Diplomatic ties between the two nations have improved in recent months, with Sri Lanka emphasising shared values such as solidarity with Palestine. The US, however, which is holding joint naval drills with the Sri Lankan navy this week, has expressed concern that agreements made during the visit could lead to violations of Western sanctions on Iran.

Height of preparedness: Fighting fires from the air

Image: Alamy

Climate / GREECE

Feeling the heat

In an attempt to prevent a repeat of the disastrous effects of wildfires over the past two years, Greece’s government has announced the largest civil-protection procurement in the country’s history. The €2.1bn package includes three aircraft for monitoring and data collection, five new Canadair CL-515 aircraft, 13 new helicopters and more than 1,100 fire engines.

It is a timely intervention: due to unusually warm temperatures, low rainfall and increased wind speeds this year’s wildfire season has already begun, starting in April for the first time. Emergency services have already had to extinguish several blazes this month. The new collateral is due to be delivered before the end of the summer; Greeks will be hoping that the procurement doesn’t turn into a race against time.


Plastic action

Hong Kong’s hospitality industry has six months to comply with a ban on certain single-use plastics. Hotels can no longer provide guests with complimentary plastic water bottles or toiletries, while restaurants are forbidden from offering takeaway plastic cutlery and straws. The edict follows an aborted attempt to charge for the disposal of household rubbish. This “waste tax”, which was met with widespread confusion and criticism earlier this year, has been postponed until August so that the government has more time to educate the public. The knives are out again over the plastic ban: restaurant operators are complaining about the cost of complying and takeaway diners are questioning the suitability of cardboard cutlery. Hong Kong’s chief executive, John Lee, has assured the public that market forces will expedite the production of better quality and more affordable non-plastic alternatives. But consumer habits will also need to adapt. A few soggy paper straws seem a small price to pay for cleaner seas and less refuse in landfill.

Beyond the Headlines

The List / Global

Building a better future

The cement-manufacturing industry releases 2.8 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, making it one of the world’s main producers of greenhouse gases. As global urban development continues at pace, the need to build sustainably and create alternative building techniques is essential. We explore three ideas and projects aiming to make a difference.

1. Converting CO2 into building materials
Nordic-Dutch company Paebbl hopes to utilise carbon-capture technology to transform every tonne of CO2 they store into several tonnes of usable building material. Not only does this remove CO2 from the atmosphere but it can also help to make the whole production process carbon negative.

2. Creating building materials out of demolition waste
Rematbuilt, German-Chinese research project, aims to tackle greenhouse gas production in two ways. It collects waste from agriculture and building demolitions, which is a source of emissions, and recycles the material into products that can be used in the construction industry.

3. Using the environment
Solutions don’t always require new ideas. Take a leaf out of Nepal’s book: the country is turning to its nature-based construction heritage as Kathmandu grows. By incorporating mass timber into its sustainable development plans, the city is addressing environmental challenges and empowering local manufacturers.

For more ideas on alternative building materials, circular construction and sustainability, listen to the latest episode of ‘The Urbanist’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Star style: the art of crafting a look

Robert Bound visits Tate Britain’s Sargent and Fashion exhibition to explore the painter’s role as a pioneer of the art of styling. We also speak to Suzi Ronson about her memoir, Me and Mr Jones: My Life with David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars, and how she crafted many of the singer’s iconic looks. Plus: we hear from stylist Emily Evans.


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