Earth Overshoot Day: We’re living like we have 1.75 Earths

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Singapore

Publishing organisation: The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-07-28

Language: English

Authors: Stephanie Adeline (Data journalist)
David Fogarty (Climate change editor)
Sylvia Quek (Data journalist intern)
Rebecca Pazos (Data visualisation editor)


The Straits Times digital graphics team is a multi-disciplinary team focused on creating high-quality data-driven and visuals projects for editorial. Our audience are mostly Singaporeans from all walks of life, so we balance innovation and functionality for all of our projects.

Project description:

July 28, 2022 was the day when humanity has used up its allowance of natural resources such as water, soil and clean air for all of 2022, also known as Earth Overshoot Day.
Every year, Earth Overshoot Day has been coming sooner and sooner. It has moved up more than four months in the past 51 years. And if we don’t curb emissions, the earth will go further into ecological deficit, and ecosystems will degrade and possibly collapse. This story provides a visual explainer of what this means and dives into the data behind it.

Impact reached:

Earth Overshoot day can be a complicated concept to understand. Terms such as biological capacity and ecological deficit is often thrown around but the average reader may not understand what that means. Through simple visuals in a scrollytelling format, we break down what biological capacity means in the simplest way possible – land needed to support humanity’s needs such as to consume food, drive cars and build buildings. This productive land is, however, limited and we keep on consuming more than what we can replenish, due to high carbon emissions. Using simple graphics and explaining jargons in simple terms, readers are able to relate more to what ecological deficit means and the urgency of climate action. This story was one of our top viewed graphics in 2022, receiving over 76,000 views despite being behind the paywall.

Techniques/technologies used:

We obtained the data for this piece from the Global Footprint Network (footprintnetwork.org). After downloading the data for the countries we want to look into, we used Google sheets to perform basic transformations and analysis of the data. Graphics were created using illustrator and exported to SVG files. For the scrollytelling portion, we used our team’s scrolly template. The animations were added in CSS. Some of the charts graphics were also created using datawrapper.

Context about the project:

Many visualisations have been done to visualize how we are living like we have 1.7 earths. But some of these charts aren’t so intuitive for the reader to understand. So instead of following the charts that’s already been done, we wanted to go a different way and break it down first into the simplest way possible. It was a challenge to think of how to make the data relatable to the reader, instead of jumping directly to the more complex charts. After lots of sketching and mockups, we came up with the version that is published now.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Just because a concept is so familiar to us, who deal with a particular topic every day, doesn’t mean the reader sees it the same way. In order to make data relatable to readers, we need to think about how to present it to someone who is not so familiar with the topic. But we also need to be careful to balance simplifying things and still explaining it accurately. Especially with topics like climate change, it can be tricky and not so intuitive to do.

Project links: