National Geographic Has Published its 2021 Year In Pictures

National Geographic 2021 Year in Pictures Four covers side by side

National Geographic has launched its 2021 “Year in Pictures” issue, its second-ever and one that the publication says feels very different from the inaugural feature last year.

The January printed issue features four different covers and is also available to view on National Geographic’s website.

The topics in the issue center around four major topics: COVID, climate, conflict, and conservation. With COVID, the focus is on the pandemic and the roller coaster that it has put the world on. New vaccines spurred optimism, but misinformation and shortages plagued immunizations.

“As daily routines began to return, the virus still haunted them,” National Geographic says.

With a cooler of COVID-19 vaccines in hand, Nazir Ahmed looks for shepherds and nomadic herders in the meadows of Tosamaidan, southwest of Srinagar in the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In the race to vaccinate against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, health-care workers have gone to extreme lengths to reach remote communities. From Srinagar, it took Ahmed and a half dozen colleagues three hours driving and then walking to reach this isolated spot. They spent four hours searching for people and vaccinated more than 10. | Dar Yasin/AP PHOTO

Massive wildfires, crop-killing drought, record heat, rising seas, and intense storms highlighted a year of roiling climate.

“The alarms about climate change have been sounding for years, but 2021 showed that the crisis truly is upon us,” the magazine writes.

The 2021 rains were disappointing in Ethiopia, which has been stuck in a devastating drought for several years. On hearing rumors of rain near the Somali border, these camel herders walked 12 days to search, unsuccessfully, for pasture there—then 12 days back to draw water for their animals from this well near their home. Civil war is a big reason that some 13 million Ethiopians— more than a tenth of the population—face serious food insecurity. But climate change is a contributing factor: Major droughts are striking East Africa more often. | Lynsey Addario/National Geographic

National Geographic notes that disputes about culture, politics, borders, and more echoed around the world.

“The United States faced an unprecedented assault on its democracy and wrestled with the painful legacy of racism,” the publication says.

Police officer Michael Fanone struggles against Trump supporters after they dragged him down the steps of the U.S. Capitol. At a rally earlier that day, then President Donald Trump falsely claimed that he’d won the 2020 presidential election “in a landslide” and urged supporters to go to the Capitol, where the House of Representatives was certifying the election results. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump said. Five people died as a result of the attack. Some 140 police officers were injured. More than 600 people have been arrested. The assault on the Capitol is the focus of a congressional investigation. | Photo by Mel D. Cole

Despite a challenging year, National Geographic says that there were still victories in the efforts to save threatened species, protect oceans, and preserve historic places.

“The gains bore witness to our commitment and our hopes.”

Meibae, a three-year-old orphan at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, in Kenya, chugs a bottle grasped in his coiled trunk. The calves used to drink human infant formula, but the coronavirus lockdown made it difficult for staff members to travel from the remote sanctuary to the town of Nanyuki to buy it. Instead, they developed their own, based on goat milk from neighboring pastoralists. It’s nutritious, cheaper, and a way for Reteti to contribute to the local economy. This creative solution forms stronger ties between villagers and elephants, encouraging a peaceful coexistence. | Photo by Ami Vitale

The photos above join the many others and can be seen along with the best animal photos of 2021, best travel photos of 2021, 2021’s most compelling and historic photos, best science photos of the year, and more.

For more on National Geographic’s “Year in Pictures” coverage, visit:

Image credits: All other photos individually credited and provided courtesy of National Geographic.