A visual guide to Earth Overshoot Day and what we can do to #MoveTheDate

New global data visuals for the longstanding annual Earth Overshoot Day (which this year fell on 2nd August) reveal surprising contrasts across nations and regions. The day (hosted and calculated by Global Footprint Network) marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.

2023 global data* shows that Qatar and Luxembourg would exceed their entire resources by mid-February if current practice continues, whereas Indonesia, Ecuador and Jamaica wouldn’t exceed theirs until December. The UK Overshoot Day is in mid-May. The new interactive visuals, created by data storytelling firm infogr8*, enable us to explore country results by continent, region and income group.

“It’s not all doom and gloom”, says infogr8’s Head of Sustainability, Stewart Pickering.  “There are surprisingly simple ways we can all slightly reduce climate damage, but sometimes, overly complex or unclear data can stop us knowing where we stand or how we can improve our own behaviour.”

“As well as comparing overshoot results geographically, we wanted to create visuals for 2023 that help people focus on the solutions that Global Footprint Network are proposing. We worked with GFN to introduce a new animated infographic to represent The Power of Possibility, enabling organisations and consumers to explore in new ways how they can make a difference most quickly and what the social impact might look like in five key areas (healthy planetcitiesenergyfood, and population). For example, if all individuals shifted towards a plant-based diet by consuming 50% less meat, it would move the global overshoot date back by 7 days. Transforming carbon tax proposals would gain us two whole months. These new visuals help us see that more clearly than ever and that role is vital.”

To determine the date of Earth Overshoot Day each year, Global Footprint Network calculates the number of days of that year that Earth’s biocapacity suffices to provide for humanity’s Ecological Footprint. The remainder of the year corresponds to global overshoot. 2023 data, shows that to replenish the resources we’re consuming over the course of a year, we’d need 1.71 Earths.

One of the biggest challenges we face in changing behaviour around sustaining our environment is getting people to understand how they, as individuals, families or company leaders and employees, fit into the wider ecological picture”, continues Pickering.  “The Power of Possibility tool helps us visualise realistic solutions by creating simple, interactive ways to explore how we can each make a difference on our own patch. Visual tools help us do more with global data, and that’s what a complex topic like sustainability needs.”

*2023 global data: Countries’ overshoot dates are calculated with Global Footprint Network’s National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts, which are updated annually.

*infogr8 are globally active visual data storytelling experts. Founded in the UK in 2012, their mission is to unlock data to reveal its true stories and to make data accessible and attractive for everyone.