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

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.

Lifting the Veil on Polluters in China

In Beijing a tiny NGO is taking on global corporations and harnessing people power in a campaign to clean up polluting factories in China.

Costa Rica: Bribri Culture Under Threat

In the mountains of Costa Rica, the indigenous Bribri struggle to maintain their culture as an influx of technology transforms their community.

Fatal Extraction: Australian Mining in Africa

Belying Australia's positive international reputation, mining companies from Down Under are accused of killing, maiming and polluting communities across Africa.

Poland: Coal’s Deadly Toll

Poland gets 90 percent of its power and much of its heat by burning coal, one of the dirtiest of fuels. The consequences for Poles' health are severe, and one polluted city is now pushing back