Issue

Trade

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 restaurants 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.

Trade 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.

Trade

Blood, Sweat, and Batteries

Two-thirds of the world's cobalt, an essential ingredient in our smartphones and electric cars, comes from one of the planet's poorest countries. All too often it is mined by children.

The Big Picture: Alberta’s Oil Sands

Alberta’s oil sands region is at the heart of the KeystoneXL pipeline controversy. A project built on aerial photographs from 1,000 feet up brings into sharp focus the project's scale—and stakes.

Wasted

About a third of all the food we produce goes to waste. What we thoughtlessly leave to rot in fields, landfills, and our own refrigerators could alleviate world hunger and help reverse climate change.

Promises, Promises: One Year After Rana Plaza

One year after the collapse of Rana Plaza many workers in Bangladesh still depend on garment-making—despite the low wages and high safety risk that come with the job.

Powering Up Brazil

How can you provide power for a country of 200 million people? This series examines Brazil's energy needs as one of the biggest economic players.

Bangladesh: The Real Cost of Fast Fashion

The Rana Plaza tragedy exposed the hidden cost of Bangladesh’s $20 billion-a-year export garment industry. Jason Motlagh returns to investigate the systemic problems that led to the deadly collapse.