The Ecological Footprint Calculator / Earth Overshoot Day
This entry introduces two projects/websites developed by the Global Footprint Network (GFN).
First is the Ecological Footprint Calculator, a comprehensive sustainability metric that represents the core of Global Footprint Network’s activities. The Calculator was created by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees in the early 1990s as part of Wackernagel’s PhD research at the University of British Columbia.
Over the years, the Ecological Footprint concept has been refined methodologically and popularized through countless educational and awareness raising efforts. According to GFN, the Ecological Footprint continues to be the only metric that comprehensively compares human demand on nature against nature’s capacity to regenerate. Since its inception, GFN has calculated Footprints of countries for each year UN data is available. Currently this means from 1961 to 2014.
More recently the GFN network introduced another metric, called the Earth Overshoot Day. This metric is based on the data from the Ecological Footprint and calculates the day in the year on which we crossed the sustainability threshold for our planet. In 2018 that day was August 1st. The concept of Earth Overshoot Day has been used in many public campaigns that aimed to raise the awareness about sustainability challenges (including climate change) that are grounded in broader and more complex issues than merely rising CO2 emissions.
The websites listed in this entry provide a comprehensive set of sustainability-related data that is presented in very clear, accessible and communicable ways. The methodology of metrics is explained and country-specific data is available for all countries of the world.
The data available can be used to help build arguments for the need (and urgency) of sustainability-related action (in different national contexts) and the value of education in addressing these issues. Using the Ecological Footprint Calculator and Overshoot data can help introduce sustainability challenges to new audiences (and potential new partners), as well as to media and policy makers.
Although the proposed solutions (reduced energy use, better planning of new infrastructure, use of public transport, reduction in meat consumption etc.) do not address structural causes of problems, nor can they be expected to suffice as mitigation efforts (without a complete re-imagination of the existing global political economy), the data available can be used also to mobilize conversations about appropriateness, adequacy and depth of our imagined solutions to mounting problems.