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

December 29, 2012

Shale Gas: From Poland to Pennsylvania

Dimiter Kenarov, Stephen Sapienza

Shale gas is an energy phenomenon not just in a broad swath of the United States but in places like eastern Europe, too. In both regions there is a tangled mix of hopes, hype, and concern.

December 06, 2012

China and Wisconsin: Paper Cuts

Mike De Sisti, John Schmid

Faced with the devastating twin threats of digital and China, can a critical Wisconsin industry survive?

November 06, 2012

Philippines and Indonesia: The Cost of Gold

Larry C. Price

Tiny children and teens toil in the gold mines of the Philippines and Indonesia. A risky, often deadly, business, child labor is growing as families rush to exploit the worldwide demand for gold.