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

May 29, 2017

The Black Death of Kabwe

Larry C. Price

Years of unmitigated contamination from Zambia's largest lead mine have created a toxic nightmare for the residents of Kabwe, the country's second largest city.

April 19, 2017

Exploring Myanmar's Conflicted Future

Doug Bock Clark, Corey Pattison

As Myanmar emerges from half a century of isolation to join the globalized world, Doug Bock Clark and Corey Pattison will report on the forces struggling to shape the country's future.

April 14, 2017

India: Migrating Into Slavery

Yardain Amron

Each winter hundreds of thousands of Indians migrate north to man the world's second largest brick industry. They're promised opportunity, but many are bonded into debt.

March 01, 2017

Ecuador: Health Consequences of Ceramic Glazing

Caitlin J. Cotter

An Andean village has battled severe lead toxicity from ceramics production, and now residents face the challenges of alternative glazing compounds or abandoning their cottage industry altogether.

March 07, 2017|

Who Makes Your Clothes?

This week: the dark history behind modern day cotton production, Saudi Arabia's religious exports, and the violent pursuit of sand.