Creative Destruction: Peter Thum's Fonderie 47

A new venture aims to foster stability in war-torn regions through an act of creative destruction: acquiring AK-47s and transforming them into rare jewelry, watches and accessories.

What's the Big Idea?


After the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, a new arms race was joined with the Soviet Union. This arms race led to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It also led to the development of the first lightweight automatic rifle, the AK-47. This breakthrough weapon, Автомат Калашникова (Automatic Kalashnikov), named after its inventor, Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, gave the Soviets and their allies the upper hand in many battle situations throughout the Cold War. For instance, while this is still a hotly debated subject, many argue the US-issued M-16 proved frustratingly unreliable in Vietnam, in comparison to the Kalashnikov.

The AK-47, a.k.a, "Everyman's Gun"

In his book The Gun (recently released in paperback), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist C.J. Chivers examines in fascinating detail the mass production, distribution, and global spread of the AK-47. Chivers recounts how this killing machine became the favored weapon of totalitarian regimes from the Middle East to Africa. At the time of the Iraq War, Chivers writes:

After almost six decades, the long travels of the Kalashnikov assault rifle had achieved the inevitable state: full saturation. Decades earlier the first AK-47s had left Soviet hands, and in the years since they had become the hand weapon of choice for strongmen, criminals, terrorists, and messianic guerrilla leaders...What does saturation mean? It would be naive to think that war would stop without these weapons. It wouldn't. It would be just as naive to think that many of the consequences of war as it has been waged in recent decades might not be lessened if these rifles were in fewer hands, and not so available for future conflicts. For how long will battlefields be so? The answer is straightforward -- as long as the rifles exist in the outsized numbers the Cold War left behind.

Enter Peter Thum. In a previous post, Big Think documented this social entrepreneur's launch of Ethos Water, a bottled water company that he used as a "funding and communications platform" that addressed the world water crisis. Thum's latest venture, Fonderie 47, launches today. Fonderie 47 acquires and destroys AK-47s in Africa, then brings some of the metal back home where it is transformed into rare jewelry, watches and accessories. The sale of each piece of their jewelry funds the destruction of more weapons. As Thum says, his company is out to fund "the rapid destruction of these weapons."

Watch the video here:

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

Why Lil Dicky made this star-studded Earth Day music video

Earth features about 30 of the biggest names in entertainment.

Culture & Religion
  • Lil Dicky is a rapper and comedian who released his debut album in 2015.
  • His new music video, Earth, features artists such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheehan, Kevin Hart, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • All proceeds of the music video will go to environmental causes, Dicky said.
Keep reading Show less

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Keep reading Show less

Behold, the face of a Neolithic dog

He was a very good boy.

Historic Environment Scotland
Surprising Science
  • A forensic artist in Scotland has made a hyper realistic model of an ancient dog.
  • It was based on the skull of a dog dug up in Orkney, Scotland, which lived and died 4,000 years ago.
  • The model gives us a glimpse of some of the first dogs humans befriended.
Keep reading Show less