Australia is very far away - both physically and psychologically. It's tucked away in the southern hemisphere, it's own island. It sees a different set of stars - the southern cross and all. Obviously, the air is different, and because much of the population is concentrated on the coastal cities to the southeast and southwest, there is less pollution over most of the landmass, which remains preserved as natural forrests, desserts, or bush country. There are less people - approximately 20 million, for a land mass as large as the US. And things go a bit slower there - the music hits later, as does the American music. Choices at grocers are plentiful, but you don't have the choices between ten different competitors on the shelf as you do in the US, which makes things easier. And all the way up until 2003/2004, many apartment complexes and residential areas didn't recycle. Maybe a few scraps of paper here, a few plastic bags there, but you'd have a better chance of seeing a bunyip in a billabong that you would to see a recycling bin for bottles and cans.
Australia is no paradise, despite it's natural beauty and mostly relaxed and friendly population. It's often been slow to the punch on many issues, and often, out of habit, grabs to the coattails of the UK and the US, creating a colorful hybrid of both nations best and worst attributes. Its Britain without the snob factor, and America without the severe preoccupation over money and materialism, and disputes over religion (the largest church in Australia observes on Sunday, during footy matches).
Despite Australia's, and John Howard's almost twelve years of playing political doppelganger to the US (along, for the most part, with Tony Blair) - the Australian's themselves have taken issue with many of the US's and their own international policies. Students at many of the universities have expressed as much ire for Howard as liberals in the US exert for Bush. Howard was luckily and rather unceremoniously dumped in the elections, and Rudd has taken over. (Howard even lost his seat in Parliament - a truly embarrassing blow, but a stunning message nonetheless). Australia isn't an overly political culture -- but if you start effecting their ability to have a "fair go", you better beware. A strong wind has blown through Australia, and it is shifting everything - their policy on the Iraq war (already highly unpopular), and climate change. Australia, a country that was never preoccupied with "going green" has quickly scribbled their initials on Kyoto. And its about time. Unfortunately, like many problems in America, Americans refuse to take ques from others, even if they are allies. The US believes it should dictate - and as the largest green house gas emitter (larger than China, even) we still feel that we are above signing a treaty agreed upon by many nations to decrease emissions. This isn't a "global warming" issue, this is a worldwide quality of life issue. Regardless of what you believe about polar icecaps, more CO2, and more pollution is never a good thing. So let's show the bravery and heart of Phar Lap, as Aussies would say, and put our name on the dotted line. Of course, like Australia, what will need to happen in order for our signature on Kyoto is a liberal takeover in the political structure. And wouldn't it be brilliant if a good number of Republicans all lost their seats in an embarrassing election as well?