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

October 21, 2012

Papua New Guinea: Exxon Mobil's Gas Project

Céline Rouzet

Is Exxon Mobil's natural gas project a heaven-sent opportunity to boost Papua New Guinea’s GDP, or a threat to the 60,000 people who can claim "customary ownership" of the land that will be affected?

September 17, 2012

Mexico: Emptying the World's Aquarium

Dominic Bracco II, Erik Vance

The Sea of Cortez is—or was—a vast and lush underwater paradise. Industrial fishing operations are now decimating the sea's bounty. Tuna, red snapper, and shark are all but gone.

August 14, 2012

Thailand's Trash: Is There Room For Sustainability?

Adam Janofsky

In Thailand, one of the world's most rapidly developing countries, sustainability often takes the backseat to economic growth. But rising levels of pollution and depletion could be disastrous.

June 26, 2012

Burma in Transition

Jason Motlagh, Stephen Sapienza

After decades of isolation, Burma is taking fresh steps toward democracy. The West has strengthened diplomatic ties and trade, but familiar fault lines still threaten prospects for lasting stability.

June 14, 2012

Panama: The New Conquistadors

Mellissa Fung, Lynn Burgess

A battle is being waged in the rainforests of Panama – between those who want to keep their way of life, and those who want economic growth. At stake: billions worth of precious metals.