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

French Guiana: Welcome to the Jungle

If people know anything about this place--and not many do--it's because of Steve McQueen. In 1973, McQueen starred in Papillon, a movie based on the book of the same name by Henri Charrière, a hustler in the French underground and accused pimp-murderer sentenced to a life in prison on French Guiana's infamous Devil's Island penal colony.

French Guiana's Gold Rush: The Big Picture

During a bad recession, the price of gold lifts astonishingly high as the market drops precipitously low—a pecuniary pas de deux with ripple-out effects around the world but in no stranger place than French Guiana, home of the infamous Devil's Island penal colony, the rocket-launching Centre Spatial Guyanais, and the European Union's largest rainforest.

Crude Awakening

The World Bank-supported Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline has been operational for over six years, but the controversy surrounding the so-called oil for development project has hardly died down.

The 1070 km (670 mile) pipeline transports oil from the Doba fields of southwestern Chad to a marine loading terminal off the Atlantic coast near Cameroon. From one end of the pipeline to the other, project partners raised the hopes and expectations of local populations.

But today, for those who had no real choice or say about the project, the disappointment is profound.