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

A Mirage of Luxury Built on Sand

Magnum nominee Sim Chi Yin’s ongoing project, Shifting Sands, examines the global hunger for sand, and the ill-regulated, under-documented industry it has fed. 

IN PHOTOS: No Man's Land

Palm oil is a multibillion-dollar industry for Indonesia. But the people responsible for its production are not the ones reaping the riches.

China's Fragile Forests

Natural forests cover about 10 percent of China’s surface area, but large swathes of China’s forests have been destroyed as a result of logging, mining, wood and plant collection.

Toxic Riches

Poorly regulated mining and refining facilities are causing enormous devastation, while corporate interests are pushing ever harder to exploit the untapped mineral resources of the continent.

Gold, Guns and Garimpeiros

As jittery investors have sought safe-haven investments in gold during the recession, the metal's price has soared on world markets.