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

India: Migrating Into Slavery

Each winter hundreds of thousands of Indians migrate north to man the world's second largest brick industry. They're promised opportunity, but many are bonded into debt.

Organic Farming Is Making a Comeback in India

A country that was once the prized gem of the Green Revolution, feeding the subcontinent and exporting massive quantities of food, is now undergoing a new organic revolution.

Ecuador: Health Consequences of Ceramic Glazing

An Andean village has battled severe lead toxicity from ceramics production, and now residents face the challenges of alternative glazing compounds or abandoning their cottage industry altogether.

South Africa's Toxic Legacy

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.

The World Without Wildlife

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?

Blood, Sweat, and Batteries

Two-thirds of the world's cobalt, an essential ingredient in our smartphones and electric cars, comes from one of the planet's poorest countries. All too often it is mined by children.

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.

This Week: Kingdom of Women

This Week: A village in China where women rule, an island off British Columbia was supposed to be an economic salvation, and illegal mining is causing problems for Venezuela.