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My research on how limited resources can lead to violence. By Lisa Van Batavia ’08

Lisa Van Batavia ’08 (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.) is working on honors research focusing on how natural resources, especially scarce or rare resources such as water or diamonds, lead to conflict and war in different countries. The government & law and anthropology & sociology double major is working under the guidance of Katalin Fabian, assistant professor of government and law. The following is a first-person account of Van Batavia’s research.

I am currently working on a thesis with Professor Katalin Fabian of the government and law department about how the scarcity or limited supplies of resources can lead to violent conflict. I chose this topic after taking a course called International Conflict with Professor Fabian in the spring of 2007. While in this class, I wrote a paper on the current conflict occurring in Darfur, a region of Sudan in Africa.

I learned that one of the causes of that conflict was the scarcity of water and land. I learned that because of drought that had occurred multiple times in Darfur, the Arabs and black Africans living in the region began to compete over the limited supply of resources such as land and water. This increased competition has added to the already existing tension between the two ethnic groups and it is a cause for the current conflict in Darfur. In my thesis I am researching both the case study of Darfur and the civil war that took place in Sierra Leone over the limited supplies of diamonds found there.

Next year I am planning on going to law school where I am interested in learning more about international and environmental law. Working on my thesis has helped me understand different environmental concerns around the world and how these concerns are the cause of many conflicts in certain countries. I have also become more aware of human rights violations that are taking place currently around the world because of the limited supplies of natural resources that exist in certain areas. I am interested in why international conflicts begin and how they can be resolved. I hope to be able to pursue these interests in law school.

Working one on one with a faculty adviser on a thesis is an interesting and beneficial experience. The feedback I have gotten from my adviser has helped me so much in exploring all the relevant aspects of my topic in order to make sure no piece of information is left out. Professor Fabian has taught me to go beyond just summarizing facts to analytically interpreting those facts and forming my own arguments as a result. The thesis process has been both challenging and rewarding. It is challenging to think and write in new ways. I have learned to not just rely on information and facts but to look at those facts analytically and interpret them on my own.

Van Batavia is a tutor for the Boys and Girls club in Easton and she participates in the America Reads/America Writes program at elementary schools in Easton. She is also a member of the Mock Trial team.

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