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People

Men on a mission

One makes beer from bread while the other tells science stories, but both Tristram Stuart and Prasenjeet Yadav aim to save the earth. The National Geographic explorers shoot the breeze with Derek Rodriguez before their talks at NTU this August

Lens health

  • Scientist-turned-lensman Prasenjeet Yadav on a photography adventure

    PHOTO: IAN LOCKWOOD

  • A tiger hiding in the bush

    PHOTO: PRASENJEET YADAV

  • Yaks grazing on snowy land

    PHOTO: PRASENJEET YADAV

  • A Malabar pit viper waiting to ambush its prey by a stream

    PHOTO: PRASENJEET YADAV

Molecular biologist-turned-roving explorer Prasenjeet Yadav realised early in his scientific career that his true calling was outside the laboratory, with a camera. But he is not your average wildlife photographer. He travels the globe using photos to shed light on issues such as climate change and green energy, and coaching scientists on how to showcase their work to a broader audience.

From scientist to storyteller

Although science fed my curiosity of the world, I felt that what I was discovering about nature was restricted to fellow scientists who did not understand why ecology and conservation science were a big deal. At the same time, I was a passionate photographer. I believed that through my photos, I could tell science stories without compromising on the details of the subject. So I started collaborating with researchers, using photos to help them share their stories.

We are all in this

We don’t have enough empathy for the natural world and often fail to be aware of how much our lives are connected to nature. Every animal on earth is playing a role. A small blue-eyed frog or a beetle is as important as a tiger or a man, and we need to understand this as co-inhabitants.

A spectacular view of the ordinary

It’s easier to take photos of exotic species, but the real skill is in creating a memorable image of common subjects like ants, bees and spiders. The real magic happens when you take a unique photo of these. That’s why my favourite photos are those I’ve taken of frogs, ants and reptiles instead of tigers and meteors.

Close shaves

I’ve escaped the jaws of an angry tiger and been chased by elephants, and I almost got bitten by a King Cobra once. I’ve endured extreme conditions to get shots, such as when I attempted to document isolated sky island mountains from the sky. But my closest brush with death was when my microlight aircraft crashed and I survived despite the body of the plane rupturing into pieces.

Paradise on earth

If I could revisit any place, it would be Eravikulam National Park in South India, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

When work is passion

I don’t have any affinity for Sunday and I don’t have any fear of Monday. My work allows me to be one with nature, see new species, learn their stories, understand new perspectives and, most importantly, share all these with others. No borders or disciplines restrict me.

Weirdest thing I’ve written home about

Getting peed and pooed on by animals, bathing with dog soap to get rid of ticks and being slapped by a monkey!

Next big thing

I’m planning to expand my “Shoot for Science” initiative where I train scientists in science communication using visual media. I am also heading to the Himalayas to work on a story on the notoriously elusive snow leopard.

Hunger management

  • Tristram Stuart inspecting a truckload of bananas

    PHOTO: BRIAN FINKE

  • Tristram Stuart inspecting baskets of discarded vegetables

    PHOTO: BRIAN FINKE

  • Tristram Stuart munching on kale in Oakland, California

  • Tristram Stuart inspecting onions

    PHOTO: BRIAN FINKE

Since discovering how much food supermarkets threw away when he was 15, Tristram Stuart has been a man on a mission against food wastage. The author and activist works with governments and businesses around the world to help make food waste a global issue.

Food for thought

We waste a third of the world’s food, and yet there are hundreds of millions of hungry people. Food production also has a huge impact on the planet. For instance, the forests of Southeast Asia are being destroyed and the orangutan is being wiped out in the quest to grow more food. If we want to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and still feed ourselves, we have to dramatically reduce food waste.

Role models

I was really struck by the Uyghurs in China when I was doing research for my book on global food waste. They regard food waste as taboo and it permeated every layer of their food culture – in restaurants and in homes. There, you order dishes according to how hungry you are, and you are expected to finish everything.

Bread to beer

In the UK, we eat plenty of sandwiches. When I first visited a sandwich factory, I couldn’t believe they threw away four slices of bread for every loaf! That’s why I set up Toast Ale, to turn that fresh bread into craft beer instead of letting it go to waste.

Technology bears fruit

Toast Ale is my favourite food-wastage prevention innovation but there are other great ones, like food sharing app Olio, which allows people to donate and collect quality leftovers from one another and from stores, and Winnow Solutions, which helps kitchens cut food waste by automatically measuring what’s put in the bin.

Literary edge

I very nearly studied biology. I chose English literature because I wanted to write books. It’s also a key to understanding how cultures are constructed over time, and how individuals and groups can change those cultures by constructing and disseminating ideas that shift public discourse and behaviour, which is what I am doing!

Take it from beer

When I was a student at Cambridge University, I ran an environmental action group. We funded it ourselves by selling beer at college parties and events. Things have come full circle now that I have founded Toast Ale, which diverts all profits to Feedback, the environmental organisation I founded.

Another passion

I’m a hunter-gatherer at heart – I love hunting and foraging for mushrooms and other wild food. Recently, I spent an afternoon collecting a bucket of cockles and mussels, and plenty of sorrel, a delicious leaf found in pastures. It’s how I connect to the natural world.

Millennials’ moment

I am extremely envious of young people growing up now, who are skilled from the start in crowd-sourcing on the internet. They think for themselves in an entrepreneurial, collaborative way, defying the mould of established institutions, and use their talents to do good in the world, not just make money at the expense of our planet.

Aim for this

Buy what you need, and eat what you buy.

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More Info: www.hey.ntu.edu.sg

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