The Democratic Republic of Congo is the richest country on the planet in terms of its natural resources – diamonds, gold, zinc, cassiterite, copper, cobalt and coltan – but its people are among the world’s poorest. From 1994 to 2003, competition for Congo’s wealth fueled a war involving six national armies and countless rebel groups. It was the most lethal conflict since World War II: 5.6 million people are believed to have died. Congo suffers from what’s called the “paradox of plenty”: countries with abundant natural resources are more likely to suffer from poverty, corruption and war.
Today, we might expect to fight for fossil fuels and precious minerals, but by 2050, we will war over fresh water and other basic resources, as two in five people try to make do without it. When things get really scarce, get resourceful. You could begin by taking tips from the citizens of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who suffered a 1,435-day siege by Serbian forces in the mid-1990s.
First, your weapon. Sarajevans made guns from pipes welded together, able to fire one shot. Triggers are tricky, so follow their example and ignore them completely. Fit a bolt on a spring behind the bullet that you can pull back and release to detonate the cartridge. If your enemy cuts off the electricity, fit a coffee-grinder handle to a dynamo-powered bike lamp. More than anything, stay warm and fed. Build a stove out of old oilcans, and craft a can to water plants for food. You will need to scavenge other supplies, too: water, lighters, non-perishable food, antiseptic, strong tape. When you go out, use a periscope† to check the coast is clear. Then run.
† In 200 BCE, Chinese historian Wang Liu’An noted a novel invention for seeing without being seen; nosy neighbors used high-mounted mirrors to reflect scenes from nearby courtyards onto the glassy surface of a bowl of water.
Skateboard, plastic basket, iron cable.
Glass bottle, Styrofoam, cardboard, paper, duct tape.