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

October 13, 2016

South Africa's Toxic Legacy

Mark Olalde

More than 6,000 abandoned mines pierce South African soil, and the nation is now left to deal with the environmental and social rehabilitation from what was once its most important industry.

October 11, 2016

The World Without Wildlife

Rachel Nuwer

Demand for animals vastly outstrips availability. What are the forces driving the current poaching crisis, what we stand to lose if species fall, and what is being done to stop the killing?

July 29, 2016

The Deadly Global War for Sand

Vince Beiser, Sim Chi Yin

Concrete. Glass. Silicon. Our civilization is built on the most important yet most overlooked commodity in the world: sand. And we are starting to run out.

July 28, 2016

Coffee in Colombia: The Fight Against Climate Change

Camila DeChalus

Camila DeChalus directed and produced a video for her project about how, with help from the Catholic Church, coffee farmers in rural Colombia are fighting against the impacts of climate change.

Myanmar's Imagined Jihadis

Why the Burmese military has used the rhetoric of the global war on terror as a pretext for its ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya Muslims

The Lost Genocide

The Rohingya have been stripped of citizenship, prevented from having children, and systematically murdered. But the United Nations may never be able to prosecute the Rohingya genocide.

Meet the Journalist: Sim Chi Yin

Photojournalist Sim Chi Yin discusses her reporting on a family affected by silicosis, an occupational lung disease that affects an estimated 6 million in China, most of them miners.

Meet the Journalist: Karim Chrobog

Pulitzer grantee Karim Chrobog reports on South Korea's innovative food recycling program–and compares it to the US, where 30 to 40 percent of what is grown and raised in the United States is wasted.

Who Makes Your Clothes?

This week: the dark history behind modern day cotton production, Saudi Arabia's religious exports, and the violent pursuit of sand.