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.


A Small-Scale Gold Rush in Madre de Dios

Small-scale gold miners have poured into the Madre de Dios region of Peru. The local governor has declared a state of emergency and vowed to take all means necessary to stop illegal mining in the area.

A Cursed Land: Peru's Rainforest

Peru's rainforests have been a hot spot for resource extraction even before rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarald first arrived in the Madre de Dios region.

International Year of Forests: Day 215

Residents living in the Phillippines are beginning to link frequent natural disasters like Typhoon Ketsana in 2009 to environmental degradation in the region.

Digging for Gold in the Peruvian Rainforest

As many as 20,000 people are involved in illegal gold mining in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, which has resulted in the destruction of soil and forests as well as the release of toxic mercury.