Issue

Global Goods, Local Costs

Behind almost every product we buy and the GDP numbers we worry over, there is a story whose trail crosses the globe. Every physical product starts as raw material somewhere, from the gold in our jewelry to the shrimp at our favorite restaurant and the minerals within our mobile phones and laptops.

The rapid industrialization of countries like India, China and Brazil and a voracious consumer culture in Europe, the United States and Japan mean ever greater demand for these raw materials—and ever greater pressures on the individuals, communities and environments that bear the cost of providing them.

These local costs too often remain hidden. They are obscured by companies and governments that put a premium on production and exports. They are little understood by consumers, whose concept of "price" and "value" does not include damage done to people and places far away.

Global Goods, Local Costs is an effort to make those connections plain, to show the true costs of producing the commodities that have become essential to our lifestyles but that we mostly take for granted. These reports touch on goods and challenges across the globe that share a common theme: the implications of a vision of endless prosperity set against the reality of a finite planet.

Global Goods, Local Costs

Venezuela: Living in a Dictatorship?

Given the growing inflation of Venezuela’s decaying democracy, a survey of people from different socioeconomic classes shows how difficult it is for them to find and afford the basics.

Cell Phones in Myanmar

Doug Bock Clark recounts how Myanmar's access to cellphones has changed drastically in the past six years.

Toxic Riches

Poorly regulated mining and refining facilities are causing enormous devastation, while corporate interests are pushing ever harder to exploit the untapped mineral resources of the continent.

Ghana: Oil City Stories

In December 2010, Ghana joined the league of oil-producers, determined to make oil a blessing and not a curse. Christiane Badgley visits Takoradi, a.k.a. Oil City to see how things are going so far.

Colombia: Mining Fever in Paradise

The government in Colombia has to choose between guarding its unique ecosystems or boosting its economy with mining. The decision could exhaust or recast Colombia’s long, agonizing armed conflict.

Gold, Guns and Garimpeiros

As jittery investors have sought safe-haven investments in gold during the recession, the metal's price has soared on world markets.