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

Thailand's Trash: Is There Room For Sustainability?

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.

Burma in Transition

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.

Panama: The New Conquistadors

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.

Haiti: Sitting on a Gold Mine

Haiti’s north is rich with mineral deposits that could infuse millions into the nation’s ailing economy—but only if the government can regulate foreign mining giants and share the wealth.

Cell Phones in Myanmar

Doug Bock Clark recounts how Myanmar's access to cellphones has changed drastically in the past six years.

The War on Poaching

More than 1,100 rhinos were killed for their horns in Africa in 2016. Quasi-military conservation units are trying to stop the slaughter.

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