World news: seaweed, shutdowns, soccer, and more

Published 6:39 pm Friday, August 5, 2022

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Once again, I think it’s a good time to check in on what’s happening with our neighbors around the world. With all the billions of people on Earth, there’s a lot of different things going on simultaneously, some good and some bad. Some issues that are relatable to us back here at home and others that are as foreign as the people dealing with them.

But I think it’s important to know at least a little bit about what the rest of the planet is facing, so here are several Associated Press stories that caught my attention this first week of August:

Caribbean coastlines are looking a little different than normal these days, but not in a good way. Unusually large amounts of sargassum seaweed are washing up “from Puerto Rico to Barbados” which makes the ocean lose its beauty and clutters up the normally pristine beaches. And the seaweed apparently smells like rotten eggs as it rots in the sand.

The island of Guadeloupe even had to issue a health alert in July because of the abundance of sargassum. In St. Martin, ferry services were suspended and kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling tours were canceled. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, a desalination plant struggled with high amounts of sargassum clogging up the machines. And those are just a few examples of how the nasty seaweed is making an impact in the area.

There are no easy solutions to the problem. Many efforts to remove the seaweed often cause negative impacts elsewhere (such as beach erosion and the destruction of sea turtle nests), and not every island has the financial means to face the problem head on.

I know local rivers and lakes here sometimes have similar algae problems. I hope researchers will make a breakthrough on the issue one day soon that’ll help clean up the water both here and there.

Over in New Zealand, government officials are making plans to adapt to climate change. That newly unveiled 200-page plan includes the possibility of moving communities to higher ground as a “last resort.” Some 70,000 coastal homes were estimated to be at risk from sea levels rising, and inland homes near rivers could be in danger of more flooding too.

“We had to start somewhere,” said Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who also noted in his remarks that the government should have started making plans years ago.

The report, however, doesn’t include an estimate cost of relocating threatened communities. But I suppose, with how costs are rapidly rising everywhere, maybe they didn’t want to bother with an estimation which will probably be different in a couple months.

The article wraps up by noting that the first six months of 2022 were the second-hottest ever recorded in New Zealand. That fact reminded me about other recent stories I’ve read about heatwaves affecting Europeans, and even the high temperatures we’ve endured here this summer.

While climate change is indeed making an impact all around the world, there are other parts of nature that make headlines too. A volcano in Iceland began erupting again this week, just eight months after its last eruption cooled down. Fagradalsfjall, the name of the volcano, is located not too far from the country’s international airport. But thankfully, the airport is still operating with no problems so far.

A different Icelandic volcano (named Eyjafjallajokull) erupted in 2010 and disrupted tons of air travel for days. During that time, over 100,000 flights were grounded and millions of people were stuck until it was safe to fly again. Hopefully, this new eruption won’t cause as much trouble. The airline industry is having enough troubles with delays and cancelations already.

An odd story out of Nicaragua caught my attention this week too. Authorities with the country’s government shut down six different radio stations, and even surrounded one with riot police.

Apparently, the shutdowns were some sort of retaliatory move against Rev. Rolando Alvarez who has been outspoken about his criticisms of Nicaragua’s president. All of the radio stations closed down belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. The local diocese denounced the shutdowns.

The AP article also gave a little bit of background about the political situation in the country. President Daniel Ortega won his fourth consecutive term in office last year. While in office, his government has shut down over 1,000 groups and has often pursued those who have criticized him.

I think it’s very disappointing to see free speech stifled in other countries, and I’m grateful that free speech is still available in the United States.

I was also intrigued by a story out of Panama, where a teacher strike was able to make some positive changes for the people of the country. The teacher walkout, which lasted a month, grew to become the “largest social protest that Panama had seen in years.” The frustrated teachers wanted more focus on education along with a halt on soaring prices for essentials such as food, gas, and medicine.

Eventually, even construction workers and Indigenous groups and just regular people joined in the protests. The groups set up highway blocks, and eventually sat down for talks with the government. After numerous talks, the government agreed to hold prices for several commodities and to lower gas prices. It didn’t satisfy all their demands, but the talks are scheduled to continue.

I was quite surprised with how successful the Panama teacher protest was, especially because we’ve seen plenty of protests here in our country in recent years that have not accomplished as much.

Lastly, England’s women’s soccer team is continuing to surge in popularity after their recent European Championship victory. The win gave the team its first ever major trophy, and drew a record-breaking crowd of over 87,000 people earlier this week.

Tickets for an upcoming match in October against the United States Women’s team sold out in less than a day. The ticket website even crashed briefly because demand was so high. England’s soccer teams (both men and women) haven’t always had the best track record for success in the past, but the women’s team is hoping their newfound glory can help promote the sport to more young girls around the country.

I think it’s always nice to see women being supported and successful in sports. Though I must admit, I’ll be cheering for the US team when they face off!

These stories are only a small sampling of what’s going on around the world. Just something to think about this week.

 Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.