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

June 09, 2014

The Big Picture: Alberta’s Oil Sands

Daniel Grossman, Alex MacLean

Alberta’s oil sands region is at the heart of the KeystoneXL pipeline controversy. A project built on aerial photographs from 1,000 feet up brings into sharp focus the project's scale—and stakes.

May 18, 2014

Wasted

Karim Chrobog

About a third of all the food we produce goes to waste. What we thoughtlessly leave to rot in fields, landfills, and our own refrigerators could alleviate world hunger and help reverse climate change.

April 08, 2014

Promises, Promises: One Year After Rana Plaza

Fred de Sam Lazaro

One year after the collapse of Rana Plaza many workers in Bangladesh still depend on garment-making—despite the low wages and high safety risk that come with the job.

November 06, 2013

Toxic Development: The Cost of Pollution in India

Sean Gallagher

Pollution in India is a hidden problem with catastrophic consequences affecting rural and urban areas. Chromium contamination, lead pollution and pesticide poisoning have left a toxic trail.

October 31, 2013

Powering Up Brazil

Juan Forero

How can you provide power for a country of 200 million people? This series examines Brazil's energy needs as one of the biggest economic players.

Venezuela: The Airport from Hell

With the socio-politic and economic crisis in Venezuela, there has been a decline in  public services. This traveler's airport experience is one example of the current situation.

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.