Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel, once said, “why did Moses lead us to the one place in the Middle East without oil?” This has been the irony of Israel, because it is a Middle Eastern country that lacks natural resources. However, all of this changed when two major gas fields, Tamar and Leviathan, were found off the coast of Israel. Not only will the natural gas allow Israel to become energy independent from its neighbors, but it will also allow Israel to export natural gas to the surrounding region. This is extremely significant for a country that has historically spent about 5% of its entire GDP on importing energy.
Most of my research has focused on the possible political issues that could result from the natural gas finding. In particular, there is a lot concern over the increasing tension between Israel and Lebanon. Shortly after Israel discovered the gas fields, Lebanon announced publicly that the gas fields belonged to Lebanon and not Israel. Another dimension of this issue is that technically Israel and Lebanon are at war; therefore, maritime borders have not been defined. Without the mediation of another country, it appears as if war may again occur between these two countries.
I became interested in this topic primarily because of my cultural and religious connection with Israel. I also became fascinated with the question of what an energy independent Israel could mean to the region and to the world as a whole.
Haneen Maikey, the leader of an Israeli-Arab activist group, once said, “if one comes out as gay, their Arab identity must then go into the closet.” The documentary The Invisible Men by Yariv Mozer follows the story of Louie, a gay Palestinian. When Louie’s father found out about his sexuality, he threatened his life, slashing his face, and kicking him out of the house. Louie crossed over into Israel where his sexuality was more widely accepted, but his ethnicity was not. He could never find sanctuary, for he was constantly on the run from police who would deport him back into the territories. Louie’s only chance of sanctuary ended up being far away in northern Europe – far away from his friends, his home, his land.
Hundreds of Palestinian members of the LGBT community go through what Louie went through every day: the constant fear, the lack of security, and the lack of a true identity. These men and women are stuck in the crossfire of the conflict, never being fully accepted by either side. They are hated not only by their fellow Palestinians for their sexuality, but also hated by Israelis for their Arab ethnicity. Their only option is in a foreign land, away from their families, their people, and their land.
I became interested in this topic because I am fully immersed in this issue myself. I am of Palestinian descent, but also identify as gay. Living in the U.S. has allowed me many freedoms that my family back in the region might not understand, and thus has led me to want to study it more. My goal in researching this issue is to gain knowledge of how identities can clash as well as the struggles that this clashing can create. I want to fully analyze an issue that is widely unknown and fully understand the history and triggers behind it.
Some may think Afghanistan is as enigmatic as the country’s veiled women cloaked head to toe. How could anyone begin to help Afghan women in a place that irrationally resists democracy, and inspires suicide bombers? It is this simplistic perspective of a diverse and complex country that hinders international efforts at improving the lives of Afghan women. The road to gender equality requires nuance and cultural understanding. For instance, Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain makes it difficult for a weak government to enforce comprehensive legal measures to help women. I propose financially lean vocational training programs that sacrifice costly building projects for an emphasis on teaching skills to female entrepreneurs. Additionally, microfinance institutions can provide financial resources to those entrepreneurs. This is a promising investment that gives women the skills to invigorate their local economies for the rest of their lives, redefines the cultural perception of women in Afghan society, and alleviates the economist conditions that fuel extremism.
It seems as though the Afghan War has lasted my entire life, yet the media rarely speaks beyond generalities about Afghanistan. I chose to research Afghanistan to learn more about a country that few seem to know about, yet is the training ground for many of our enemies. I thought I would research state-building strategies, but I found the Taliban’s treatment of women to be interesting. Even though the Koran teaches gender equality, the Taliban needed strict gender policies to preserve morale among its fighters. I narrowed my focus to Afghanistan’s gender issues. Just as I learned there are factors other than religion to this problem, I realized there is more to gender studies than meets the eye. Indeed, gender issues influence the economy, demographic issues, security, and politics. Ironically, in this way my thesis still relates to state-building in Afghanistan.
India as a nation is known for its vibrant and colorful culture, its unique and spicy food, and its relatively recent emergence as a major world power. The bustling streets of New Delhi teem with street vendors selling everything from handmade clothing and jewelry full of vibrant colors and patterns, to traditional Indian na’an and daal. The city has also experienced significant development and urbanization in recent history, with banks and other industries popping up on every corner. Despite these physical advancements that have been made in India over the past few decades, India also continues to be known for some of the world’s poorest air quality and worst rates of outdoor air pollution. However, though outdoor air pollution is an obvious hazard in India, indoor air pollution that results from the use of biomass burning cookstoves in rural regions is just as large a cause for public health concerns, specifically for women and young children. In order to address India’s struggle with indoor air pollution, many policy makers, organizations and researchers have turned to “clean cookstoves” as a solution to this problem.
I became interested in researching this issue through a study conducted by Duke University, and because the health impacts of biomass burning cookstoves are truly global; 3 billion people worldwide rely on biomass fuel to cook and provide light for their families, 916 million of whom live in India. However, economic, cultural, and political obstacles have stood in the way of successful and sustainable adoption of improved cookstoves. The advances and improvements made to the stoves’ technologies have in the past been geared toward fuel efficiency and thus environmental friendliness, rather than focusing on the stove users’ needs and preferences. Though researchers adapted and improved them to be less harmful to the environment and to human health, these same researchers failed to research adequately the culture and traditions of the societies into which they hoped to implement their new stove technologies. The most successful studies in rural India that established more than minimal adoption of improved cookstoves made stove improvements within the context of the societies in which they worked, but how to most effectively implement a sufficient rate of improved stove adoption in India has yet to be established.
As westerners, many have become used to a relatively egalitarian society where institutionalized gender segregation is not a serious issue. Equally talented males and females in the workforce surround many of us. Now, attempt to put yourself in a woman’s position in a very different world. Imagine a world where you continually had to approach unknown men to buy your undergarments. In Saudi Arabia, men were heavily employed in retail and not until a recent decree, approved by King Abdullah have women been allowed to work in retail. This is just one small accomplishment but a major milestone in the employment battle for women in Saudi Arabia. Along with sales associate positions, women are struggling to find employment in other sectors. However, Saudi women are pushing to enter the workforce, and with the help of the King, slowly making progress in Saudi society.
Saudi Arabian women are highly underrepresented in the work force. This topic is important to me because I thought about the privileges I have by simply being a citizen of the United States. I was able to work at 15 years old. I am not discriminated against because of my gender. The grounds are more leveled as a citizen of the US. However, adult females living in Saudi Arabia cannot find jobs. They are educated and represent more than half of the university students in the kingdom. However, they are ignored when they try and enter the workforce. My goal is to expose the importance of this issue for Saudi Arabian women and Saudi Arabia as a whole and suggest possible solutions.
In recent years, Natural Gas has become the fastest growing and most potentially viable resource in the United States. Both cleaner and more abundant than any other fossil fuel, Natural Gas could have a momentous impact on the U.S. as a whole. However, as the industry continues to grow, politics have begun to interfere, creating conflicts between the economic and environmental aspects of natural gas. The United States is at an interesting time, with both complex economic and environmental issues. A decision must be made as to whether we should place our economic or environmental problems on the forefront. Natural Gas’s true potential will not be found before the U.S. decides which problems to address first. By exploring the current issues surrounding the natural gas industry, I try to find the most feasible way for us to expand our natural gas horizons to aid our country’s rising energy demands.
I savor the rich flavors of a buckwheat pancake filled with egg and goat cheese known as galette. Folk music plays lightly from the stereo in the family room. I can only understand a couple of the words that repeat in the chorus. No, the language isn’t French; it’s Breton. The words sung over a bagpipe: ‘Breizh ma bro’ translate to ‘Brittany, my country.’
Every Sunday my host family gathered for a traditional Breton lunch of Krampouezh(savory crêpes), and Kouign Amann (Breton pastries saturated with butter) washed down with sistr (apple cider). While this meal of the local cuisine proved to be a highlight of my weekends, the words exchanged at the table remain even more memorable. The two most frequent conversation topics: the faults of Sarkozy and Breton identity. Often family friends of the Coutards would join us for lunch and the face of my host mother, Danielle, would lighten up as she transitioned from the soft, unstressed words of French to those of the guttural, and emphatic Breton language. This scene demonstrated the remarkable pride of the Coutards for their Breton heritage despite being a typical French family.
Like the Coutards my family prepares a special meal every week. Each Friday, my mother bakes a challah, a light and fluffy bread. She lights the Sabbath candles, covers her eyes with her hands, and recites prayers in Hebrew and In Yiddish. Unlike her, I cannot understand the words that have been passed down for generations. I am oblivious to the words that hold they key to my ethnic heritage. Since I have remained aloof to my ancestral language, I have lost a part of my identity. And it isn’t just me; despite the importance of Breton to Danielle, my host brother Malo can hardly produce a sentence in Breton. We are both a part of the global trend that is linguistic erosion.
Imagine an entire culture and history simply vanishing from the face of the earth. Such is the case as every two weeks a language ceases to be spoken. In about 50 years half of the world’s languages will have disappeared. As languages die, so do the unique outlooks of countless communities. The death of language is a symptom of globalization: individuals around the world are forgetting the language of their ancestors, as economic, political and social pressures require them to learn a more common language.
The trend of language death may be interpreted as a reversal to the tower of babel myth; with the peoples of the world converging to speak one language perhaps individuals will better understand one another. Yet how can we, as humans, accept each other’s differences while promoting a mono-cultured, mono-linguistic world? The English word, “diversity,” defined by Oxford as “the quality or fact of including a range of many people or things” must remain a universal value to ensure a peaceful world for the future. Action needs to be taken to save these languages so that human thought remains unlimited, and so that the world continues to harbor a rich array of peoples, beliefs, and ways of life.
Growing up in the past decade and a half, technology has dominated my life and the lives of many others. It has taken us from a place where tradition ruled and you had to work for what you had through a process, which involved education, rising through the ranks and success. The Internet changed all of that. It allowed people to use their creativity to become known and has generated billions of dollars for those with the best ideas.
However in the past couple of years, the Internet has become more of a driving force for change. It originally revolutionized the way we communicate and has since then grown in power. It grew to the point that politicians have twitter feeds and movie stars have websites. While it had changed the lives of people in the developed world (think iPads, Blackberries and Netscape) it had done little to help those in the developing and 3rd world. However, with the proliferation of Internet technology, thanks to smartphone and mobile computing, this has changed.
As we have seen over the past months, the Internet in the hands of people with a message is able to bring about change. The people of Syria, Iran, and Egypt (among others) began to rally using the Internet as a conduit to spread their message and gain support.
The people of Egypt have successfully overthrown their totalitarian regime under which they have suffered for decades. They were one of the most sensational examples of how the use of new media, specifically twitter, allowed people to communicate quickly and efficiently allowing protests like those that happened at Tahrir Square to be organized and come to fruition overnight. Books like the Huffington Post’s “Tweets from Tahrir” show chronologically how the events within the country are illustrated through the tweets of individuals who were attempting to bring about change.
Syria has lead to another interesting development within the techno-revolution paradigm. While in Egypt and Iran, it was individuals communicating with individuals, in Syria, they were more organized. English-speaking Syrian university students who created the Sha’am News Network which effectively uses new media like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, to centralize and constantly push out information about what is happening within their country. Recently, they have had a great success now the UN observers have entered their country.
Iran is entirely different, because although statistically they have more internet access than Syria and Egypt, they have had the most stalled revolution. This is because their government is notably harsh and this ideology of obedience has been engrained into the national character. However, as people within Iran have seen the revolutions occurring in countries around them, internal dissent has grown and the fires of revolutionary spirit have begun to burn.
Looking at the technology used, but more importantly, who is using the technology is important and what I focus on in my paper and presentation. It is about the two working in tandem. There is often the notion that the Internet is some omnipotent god-like being working in mysterious ways, however this is a fallacy. In reality the Internet is a conduit for instant communication, which allows people to communicate in ways never before possible.
I have enjoyed the Global Thesis program because it is a refreshing break from the rigorously structured coursework of GFA, which has come to dominate my view of education over my past 13 years (kindergarten – 12th grade)at GFA.
As J.B. Mathews put it, “The United Nations could not be less of a cruel hoax if it had been organized in Hell for the sole purpose of aiding and abetting the destruction of the United States”. Though this is a harsh description, there is some truth behind his words. The United Nations was a by-product of the endings and victors of World War II: it is outdated and does not reflect the workings of a world more than a half-century later. Details like the special position of the permanent five have undermined this governing bodies’ credibility. Also, the bureaucracy and inefficiency are just two examples of the overlapping jurisdictions that handicap the executive aspects of the UN. This ineffective world government must be fixed so the international community can move forward and prepare for this new millennium.
Within my Global Thesis I have proposed a large-scale movement to reform and reinvent the United Nations to update it to the 21st century. As one of the presidents of the Model UN Club at GFA, I have experienced the UN’s inefficiencies first hand in our yearly participation in mock UN conferences. To me the United Nations has always been a fascinating and promising governing body. However, its bureaucratic tendencies and inefficiency has always pained me. I decided that for my Global Thesis I would research ways in which the UN could be enhanced. My thesis combines ideas from all over the political spectrum including reforms that I made myself.
While there is no doubt that the United Nations was a revolutionary and brilliant idea in 1945, it is the year 2012 where its outdated ideology and format are dragging down our international community. Despite proposed reforms, the ancient charter and untouchable Security Council, render possible reform to the Untied Nations impossible. Furthermore, as the world-renowned historian Thomas Weiss said when talking about reforming the United Nations, “Everypotential solution, however, brings as many problems as it solves. And no amount of diplomatic theatre can eliminate that reality.” This personifies the puzzle of the United Nations and the ultimate challenge our global community has in facing the 21st century.
 Madeleine Albright, “United Nations, the United Nations has Become Irrelevant”, Think Again Magazine (October 2003), 17 JSTOR.
 Weiss, What’s Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix it, 55.
If anyone has seen the riveting movie “Taken” or sat through the “The Hangover 2”, you have a small peek into the global problem of sex trafficking. These movies are great in their eye catching, dramatic and hilarious plot lines. In “Taken” a man’s daughter is kidnapped on a trip to Paris and is abused, drugged and almost sucked to a global trafficking web. And in the “Hangover 2”, the scene portrays the incredibly visible sex industry in Thailand. They offer a small and a slightly sensational window into how sex trafficking is perceived by the popular media. But with my research this year, I have fortunately had the chance to understand sex trafficking at a deeper level. Specifically, I have looked at sex trafficking through a lens of gender and human relations.
While I have looked at the initial problem of women getting involved in sex trafficking, I have focused my project on the inevitable relapse of women back into sex trafficking. Police raids and planned escapes can physically displace a female victim from the brothel, however, that is not the end of the story. For example, she may have an emotional or economic attachment to the certain brothel. Another possibility is that she might have a drug addiction that is satisfied at a certain supplying brothel. Whatever it may be, these detracting problems of drug abuse and attachment are compounded by various different factors. In countries such as Thailand, gender inequalities in Thai culture can affect a woman’s self-perception, power and niche in society. Often times, these compounded factors can send women back into sex trafficking in spite of efforts to free them.