Overshoot Day: a sustainability metric that you should know

On July 28, the Think Tank Global Footprint Network announced Overshoot Day for the
year 2022. Overshoot Day is when the world’s population has consumed all the natural and
renewable resources made available for the year by the planet.

Results for ecological footprint of the columnist: www.footprintcalculator.org

This metric was designed in 1990 by Mathis Weckernagel, PhD Student at University of British-
Columbia. He is now the president of the Global Footprint Network. It measures the difference
between all of humans’ consumptions of nature (the ecological footprint) and all the
productions of nature by the Earth (biocapacity).

Biocapacity measures all the productive lands including: agricultural, grazelands, forests,
fisheries and built landscapes. It also accounts for all the ecological services rendered by nature,
such as carbon sequestration by the forests. Ecological footprint, in contrast, measures the
pressure of all human consumption on these ecological resources. Both are measured in Global
Hectares per person and per year (gha).

In 1971, Overshoot Day did not happen before the end of December. Only one planet could
satisfy human consumption. Humanity was technically “sustainable” back then. Fifty-one years
later, it only takes eight months to finish our budget. As a result, the last four months of the
year will be spent on credit. The biocapacity is driven to exhaustion and we are eating up the
natural capital, causing less biocapacity available for the next generations of humans.

However, “sustainable consumption” does exist in 2022. At the scale of countries, Cameroun,
Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Ecuador, or Uruguay are some examples of which one planet suffices to
meet its people’s consumption.

Canada’s splendid natural spaces measure at 15 gha of biocapacity per person and per year.
Yet, the entire planet only has 1.6 gha per person to share. Embarrassingly enough, Canadian
relentless consumption habits’ weights measure at 8 gha per person. It means that in Canada,
our consumption habits and craving for unlimited energy, food, large homes, travels and stuff,
set Overshoot Day to March 13th! That’s seventy-two days before “game over”. That’s five
planets! You read correctly: 5 planets. Only Qatar, Luxembourg, USA and the United Arab
Emirates do worse.

Overshoot Day offers a truly scientific metric for sustainability. It is worth sharing to collectively
better understand where we are at. And how to steer our consumption in order to #Movethedate the name of the campaign by the Global Network Footprint.

For those who agree to act but have little time to spend on studying the matter, I would say
« Find your way to become as vegetarian as possible, or better, vegan! Generally speaking,
monitor your energy consumption, such as heating and AC. Inside temperatures at 19°C in the
winter and no less than 27°C in the summer. Spain just made these maximums obligatory to
save energy. If you drive a car, never go alone. Share it with passengers (ridesharing) or with
other drivers (car-sharing). And if you are a frequent flyer, consider abandoning this habit
quickly. Flying and animal farming are “an indulgence we cannot afford anymore”, said Georges
Monbiot, the British author and columnist. However disappointing that may be, he’s right.

Now, if you want to contribute actively to this immense challenge of sustainability: educate
yourself! Start with calculating your footprint on the Global Footprint Network website at
www.footprintcalculator.org. Study the results and plan for an ambitious yet progressive
reduction over the next few years. The goal is to live within the limits of one planet. Aim to
reduce your carbon footprint at least by half in 2030. You will want to stay below 7 tonnes of
CO2 per person per year. Finally, share your discoveries and your story with friends, family and
colleagues. That’s how best practices go around. And read! Start with IPPC Synthesis reports on
climate. Follow climatologists on social networks (Professor Michael E. Mann, for example).

Educate yourself, read and join like-minded people. I recommend participating in workshops to
better grasp the science, the orders of magnitudes, and the many ways to influence today
toward a liveable future. For example, try the excellent Climate Fresk Workshop that has
recently come to Canada. Join the monthly Green Drinks Vancouver gathering, follow Climate
Change Education Canada and meet the Extinction Rebellion.

The ecological challenges are so great and urgent, they really need your energy, your
intelligence and your power of influence!

Aloïs Gallet is a Lawyer, Economist, Co-founder at EcoNova Education and Albor Pacific, and Councillor for the French citizens in Western Canada.