Activists, entrepreneurs, eco pioneers and insects. In 2021 we’ve photographed them all here at 5. Here’s our pick of the most powerful images of the year.
Fighting for tomorrow
5’s Ken Hermann captured the determination of these young Danish climate activists, photographed at September’s Tomorrow Festival in Copenhagen. They’re part of the Fridays for Future movement, famously kicked off by Greta Thunberg’s solo school strike in 2018.
A bee pollinating a cherry tree flower, photographed by Frederic Cerez. Bee populations are in decline, but even a small outdoor space can help – and bring you closer to nature.
Poachers turned protectors
In the mountains of Iran, men who once hunted animals for fun now risk their lives to protect them. They face steep climbs, cold nights, long waits and the threat of violence. Since they began, the number of mountain goats, wild sheep and black-tailed gazelle in the area has risen from 60 to 1200. Marjan Yazdi profiled the rangers in this atmospheric series of photos.
Søren Solkær’s starlings
Through all the years he spent travelling the world photographing rock stars, Søren Solkær couldn’t get one image out of his mind: a starling murmuration he saw as a child. Eventually he decided to go back to the corner of Denmark where he grew up to capture the beautiful phenomenon on camera. Solkær told 5 how the experience brought him back in touch with the natural world.
Tobias Nicolai took this portrait of Amie N’Dong, co-founder of Social Vanilla. Vanilla is one of the world’s most valuable substances, but the farmers who grow it don’t see much of that value. Amie told 5 about her mission to change all that.
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Artist Theo Jansen brings life to these mechanical creatures by harnessing the wind. His amazing kinetic sculptures, called Strandbeests, have been exhibited all over the world, and people flock to see them. See them in action in 5’s gallery of photos and videos.
Pioneer of the eco life
Robert Hall is one of the founders of Suderbyn ecovillage in Sweden, where volunteers come to learn skills that much of the rest of the world has forgotten. From growing organic veg to producing biogas, those prepared to pitch in come away with invaluable insights. This shot of Robert was captured by 5’s Ken Hermann, who spent some time documenting life in the village.
The song of the whale
This photo of a humpback whale with calf was taken by Gang Song. The way we look at whales today was influenced hugely by the biologist Roger Payne, who was the first to record the sounds they make. Payne’s whale song recordings were revelatory, and helped spark the movement to protect these magnificent mammals, as we learned in this curated article from Nautilus.
Raul Ariano photographed Robert Luo of Mi Terro, a startup on a mission to cut food waste and fight plastic pollution at the same time by turning by-products of brewing into innovative new materials.
Food from thin air
They claim it’s the world’s most sustainable source of protein. It certainly looks futuristic. This is Solein, a food grown from microbes, using only solar power and air. Coming soon to a dinner table near you.
Part of nature
We fell in love with this evocative series of portraits by Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen, showing people in nature, blending into the background. Or is the background blending into them?
Caretakers of the forest
Milton Rodriguez took this photo of the head of the Asháninka community in Chanchamayo, Peru. Indigenous communities do a great job of protecting forests from harm – even better in many cases than official protected areas, as we learned in a curated article from Positive News.
Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard spoke at this summer’s Tomorrow Festival, where 5’s Ken Hermann took this portrait. Gillard spoke on the importance of making sure women and girls have access to family planning and education. As well as improving lives, this can curb population growth, mitigating climate change.
Farming, 2021 style
Tobias Nicolai took this photo at Nordic Harvest, one of the world’s largest vertical farms, just outside Copenhagen, Denmark. 150 hectares of growing space, squeezed into just one hectare, right on the doorstep of the city.