Category Archives: Environment

Going Public: What Reinventing Paris Can Teach London

That the Internet is in the process of transforming many sectors is by now a truism, but this fact does not make the phenomenon any less real; moreover, the depth of the potential for what is ultimately just a series of networked computers to improve everyday lived experience cannot be underestimated. Reinventing Paris – a scheme to revitalise 37 acres of disused public space in one of the world’s most iconic metropolises – is emblematic of the new possibilities.

The central concept: Paris is a city with vast swathes of publically-owned land which has been lying empty for decades; these parcels include shuttered Métro stations, parking basements and nightclubs. Moreover, much of this land is located in central locations, and is aesthetically notable: perfect for being turned into restaurants, galleries and other leisure venues. Anne Hidalgo – the Parti socialiste Mayor of Paris – has, through the medium of the Web, opened an international competition to canvas ideas for the future uses of this valuable resource.

After some contemplation, we at Mediolana believe that the dual-national Paris leader is onto something, and that London needs to take note of three points from this exercise:

  1. Public Land ≠ Get Rich Quick Scheme. Over the last decade in particular, too much of London’s state-owned land has been sold off to property developers whose express purpose is to annihilate the general citizenry’s access to it. Any alternative to not constructing dehumanising residential towers – parks, lakes, sporting and cultural amenities – does not seem to have penetrated the discourse. This can and must change.
  2. Innovate. At least since the end of Ken Livingstone’s reign at the helm of London’s City Hall, the United Kingdom’s capital has been desperately short of municipal creativity. Boris Johnson – who somehow held the post of mayor for eight years – did not follow through on his one Big Idea, the New Routemaster for London, on which conductors were abandoned; while it is somewhat early to evaluate the Sadiq Khan administration, the signs on this front are not encouraging. Being a twenty-first century mayor cannot be just about overseeing longstanding infrastructure projects; it is about being brave, visionary and prolific in generating concrete ideas to improve people’s lives.
  3. Internationalise. Part of why London – despite being a genuine world capital – is often way behind cities with a fraction of its population and profile when it comes to governance is that its media culture is centralised and insular: it has just a single daily newspaper, and this title shows little if any interest in making its readers aware of urban best practice from around the globe. Given London’s extraordinarily talented international population, this is nothing short of a scandal; every step should be taken to collate, publicise and implement what cities from Istanbul to Tokyo are doing better than us – and take it to the next level.

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Filed under Creativity, Environment, Urban Life

Engaging Reverse: Beijing #Students ‘Reinvent the Wheel’!

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On the Right Track: Three Moroccan Environmental Policies Which Should Go Viral

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Thanks to diaspora remittances and a longstanding culture of everyday luxury, the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Morocco are not exactly slumming it in quality of life terms. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact that today’s Morocco is a little bit like China in the pre-Deng Xiaoping 1970s: a once-great power experiencing a tricky 100-200 year period. Moreover, with a GDP/capita of just US$8,460, those remittances are far more important than they should be; it is safe to say that the country as a whole is underachieving.

It was therefore with some surprise that our Creative Director & CSO recently came across three eco-friendly initiatives – all of which can be filed under ‘cutting-edge’ – which are being implemented in a country that most people think of as a little more than a cute tourist destination on the periphery of Western Europe. While none of these policies are, technically-speaking, original, Morocco is nevertheless breaking new ground in deploying them; this sparsely-populated North African nation should inspire both far wealthier countries and its continental neighbours to copy Maghrebian best practice in the following domains:

  1. High-speed rail. In partnership with France’s SNCF, the Moroccan state railways company ONCF is presently constructing the beginnings of an HSR network; the first line will start in the port city of Tangier before eventually terminating at Marrakech, turning what is presently a ten-hour slog into a <three-hour trip. The initial section of the network is scheduled to go live at some point in 2018, well before planned HSR lines in the US; no other African country is presently attempting anything resembling this level of rail infrastructure.
  2. Bike-sharing. Another first for Africa is Marrakech’s Medina Bike cycle-sharing programme, recently installed as part of the hosting for the COP22 international environmental conference and another Franco-Moroccan partnership, this time between Smoove and Estates Vision respectively. As with HSR networks, bike-sharing schemes can direct the trajectory of economic development away from automobiles, and therefore help preserve the best bits of urban fabric.
  3. Solar power. Morocco is currently constructing the world’s largest free-standing solar power station, a facility that will power no less than 1m homes and which has seen the country receive broader international recognition for its ecological efforts: the kingdom was the only non-European country in the top ten of the Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe’s 2016 Climate Change Performance Index. Most countries in Africa and many far beyond stand to benefit greatly from replicating this technology; for particularly poor countries, investment in solar can slash their energy import bills and enable them to take a more sustainable path to development altogether.

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Filed under Economic Development, Environment, Technology, Urban Life

This Is Not Fare: Conductors Eliminated From London’s Bus Network!

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Filed under Environment, Politics, Urban Life

A Streetcar Named Detroit: Motor City Embraces Mass Transit Revolution!

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Climate Change Latest: Planet Earth ‘Needs a Caffeine Fix’!

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Filed under Economics, Environment

Secret Mediolana Fans, Volume 1: Siemens!

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Here at Mediolana, it’s no secret that we love our blogging – and the rest of the world seems to agree. Within months of its inception, mediolana.wordpress.com had already ascended into the 1% of Technorati blogs; had been featured multiple times on WordPress’s own showcase of its best content; and via associated social media channels had started to amass some seriously influential followers, which today number entities from some of the world’s biggest international news networks.

However, it only recently came to our attention that a certain German industrial conglomerate was reading the very blog that you are presently viewing: no less a company than Siemens AG has referenced us in an article on young inventors featuring Elif Bilgin, the Istanbul teenager who created a new type of plastic out of banana peels – and whom we wrote about way back in September 2013.

We’re honoured that such a doyen of the European and global industrial scene is tuning into our blog – and particularly on a matter of genuine import, such as humanity’s relationship with the environment. As we sometimes say in this part of London: Schönen Dank!

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