And how do you capture it? Renowned photographers from around the world submitted their ideas to an annual contest for sustainability. See photos that show the power of nature and the human quest for power — as well as the power of the human spirit.
"I sometimes work where power presents itself as a spectacle, as an event produced for or with the media, and my pictures may then take an ironic undertone," writes Luc Delahaye. "But I photograph the ordinary man more often than the leader." 132nd Ordinary Meeting of the Conference, OPEC headquarters, Vienna, Austria, 2004
Luc Delahaye / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"I worked off the coast of Louisiana during the spill, where approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf waters. The resulting photographs were taken from three thousand feet above," writes Daniel Beltra. Oil Spill #1: A plume of smoke rises from a burn of collected oil.
Daniel Beltra / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"What I am after is that very fleeting tenth of a second when the tension is at its most extreme," writes Mohamed Bourouissa. His photos focus on issues of violence and prejudice in the suburbs in France where he grew up.
Mohamed Bourouissa / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"More than 90 percent of the original forest in the American Northwest has been clear-cut at least once," writes Robert Adams. Clatsop County, Ore.
Robert Adams / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"It seems to be an accepted fact that the sea level will rise dramatically before the end of the century," writes Carl De Keyzer. "This project doesn't just focus on a possible future hazard; it also takes in the various forms of coastal protection in Europe throughout history and how today Fortress Europe copes with other swells and floods." England, 2009
Carl De Keyzer / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"Tucked in the high desert, the training center's landscape is not dissimilar from parts of Afghanistan and Iraq. I embarked on the process of documenting the intricate live fire maneuvers the troops underwent prior to their deployment to Iraq," writes An-My Le. Twentynine Palms, Calif.
An-My Le / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"Twenty-six years after the disaster, the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident are both visible like scars and invisible like air," writes Rena Effendi, explaining that her series is meant to "portray both the long-term effects of this nuclear catastrophe, and the power and persistence of the human spirit in the face of devastation."
Rena Effendi / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"Working under military censorship, this series explores the spaces and objects of power and control at Guantanamo," writes Edmund Clark. Camp Six, Emergency Response Force Equipment, 2009, Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, Cuba
Edmund Clark / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"In each Arab country ... I searched for the most successful and powerful female business leaders," writes Jacqueline Hassink. "The concept was very simple: What does the Arab boardroom look like and what parallel would the dining table create?" Elham M. Zeadat, general manager and owner of Bloom Dead Sea Gift Enterprise
Jacqueline Hassink / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"In my quest for emblematic images, I recorded the documentary aspects of the tragedy in a quasi-systematic, serial manner," writes Philippe Chancel. "Using GPS data I reconstructed my journey from satellite photos taken at the same time and captured on Google Earth." Higashimaecho GPS 39°16'23"N 141°53'36"E, June 1, 2011, 7:59:36 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan
Philippe Chancel / Courtesy of Prix Pictet
"Power" is a concept that conjures up different ideas for different people. There's the power of nature or the power of money; or the drive for power at the root of the human psyche — and how it can cause war and discrimination. Or, more literally, how we humans power our existence on the planet.
But how do you photograph it? That was the challenge for the Prix Pictet prize this year — a "global award in photography and sustainability," now in its fourth cycle. Previous themes have been "water," "earth" and "growth," drawing submissions from some of the world's most renowned photographers.
This year, that included stark black-and-white landscapes of clear-cutting in the American West; a study of the places where powerful Arab women work and live; scenes at Guantanamo; and a series called Fukushima: The Irresistible Power of Nature.
French photographer Luc Delahaye took the grand prize for his wide-ranging portfolio of dramatic scenes from around the world over the past few years: a mass grave in Bosnia; an epic shot of the aftermath of India's post-earthquake wreckage in 2004; and media madness at an OPEC conference.
The selection of images below represents the other finalists. You can see entire portfolios on the Prix Pictet site. And you can leave your comments here; what's your vision of "power"?