Australia: The Land of Tumbleweeds and Surface to Air Missiles

What comes to mind when you think Australia?

If you thought Australia was just filled with Steve Irwin look-a-likes, Fosters, and the rugged outback you’re mistaken. Well, for the most part. Australia has modernized and become a huge global economy, 12th in the world based on GDP. But as I said, Australia is still a relatively wild place. In the past weeks there has been a huge growth in the number of tumbleweeds affecting Australians. Yes, you heard that right, tumbleweeds are actually a real thing and they’re ravaging Australia. These tumbleweeds definitely are not the fun ones from cartoons but are huge and overtaking people’s homes. The growing tumbleweeds, called hairy panic, are impeding windows and doors to people’s homes causing safety hazards. This rise in tumbleweeds was caused by a drought currently affecting Australia, related to an El Nino pattern earlier in the year. The drastic El Nino was probably amplified by climate change; the effects of which were seen around the rest of the world this year.

“Overtaking homes” is no exaggeration 

Speaking of environmental disasters, in Australia news of the Chinese government’s creation of a ring of man made islands extending from China has sparked the concern of many, including environmental activists. These man made islands have been constructed by destroying natural coral reefs, then piling up layers of sand on top to actually build the islands. The islands are meant to increase China’s territory because their territorial rights would extend a certain amount of miles from the island instead of from the mainland. This encroachment on international waters has frightened many of its neighbors, including Australia. Recently, China was reported to have put surface to air missiles (SAMS) on an island in the South China Sea. The island in question with SAMS is not a man made island but is one that has been in contention between China, Vietnam, Philippines, and Taiwan. The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said the Chinese have challenged these reports. The Australian government has reason to be concerned about Chinese expansion because of its relative closeness to these islands. Australia, as an island nation, depends on those waters heavily for trading. The Australian government has said the issue is a “matter of concern.” Hopefully, the Australians can work out a peaceful solution to the problem that limits the amount of future environmental destruction and creates peaceful stability within the region.

A Chinese-held reef becoming an island

If you’re wondering where the US is on this issue, it has been blatantly disregarding Chinese declarations of its new territory, sailing military destroyers through the disputed areas. While this might seem like a rash plan on the United States’ part is seems to be showing the Chinese government it doesn’t recognize these new islands as Chinese territories and thus invalidates China’s goal. It’s a subject that’s bound to keep popping up so keep your eye on it. Also, it might be prudent to keep an eye out for rogue tumbleweeds.

This post would be incomplete without me

Will Smith is a first-year in the College. He is from St. Louis, MO.


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What We’re Reading: First Week

Outside of the whirlwind of classes, a lot went down this week. Here’s a few of the stories we’ve been reading.

  • In his press conference on the Umpqua shooting, Obama pushed the country to finally institute gun regulations. He cited the fact that we are the only advanced nation with mass shootings every few months; other countries like us seem to have figured this out.
  • is launched, creating an easy, centralized way to register online to vote. If your state doesn’t allow online registration, the website automatically pulls up the necessary forms that need to be mailed. It’s as easy as it could get — given current state rules and regulations.
  • Rolling Stone does an extensive interview with Obama on climate change.
  • Lindsey Graham on what Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common

EPA: Let’s Low-key Save the Earth

By Robin Ye

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an unequivocally great federal agency. I’ve never been in another place that has inspired so much belief in a worthy mission. The EPA’s mission is “to protect human health and the environment” – and it does a damn good job at it. Even after one summer internship, I’m pretty convinced this won’t be my last tour through the EPA when it’s all said and done.

Read more

Where Progress Happens

By Rachel Neuburger

The West Wing sparked my interest in politics. This is unfortunate. According to Mark Leibovich, the West Wing caused a wave of millennials to study Political Science, move to Washington with dreams of affecting Bartlet-scale change, and suddenly realize just how hard it is to make progress on a federal scale. Former idealists become enmeshed in the glued-to-the-news-cycle, no-progress mess of revolving doors that is our nation’s capital.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to relocate to D.C. to figure this out. Read more