Kitchissippi Reads: Meredith Brown explores her passions

By Jacob Hoytema – 

We often see her at Westboro Beach, but the Kitchissippi Times travelled to the beaches of Petrie Island, north of Orleans where Ottawa Riverkeeper, Meredith Brown, was taking part in an interprovincial, multi-organizational effort to reintroduce eels into the Ottawa River. Before she was able to discuss her summer reads, Meredith and the rest of the team boated into the middle of the river to dump out bucketfuls of the slippery critters, which were once common before becoming threatened by modern infrastructure like dams and hydro generators.

This eel project is just an example of the many responsibilities Meredith has as the Ottawa Riverkeeper (which is both her title and the name of her organization, based in Kitchissippi) but even with a busy schedule keeping on top of river basin issues, Meredith’s passion for reading and learning still shines through.

Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown has a “huge stack of books” by the side of her bed. What does she have on the go right now? Read on! Photo by Jacob Hoytema

“I have a huge stack of books by the side of my bed,” says Meredith. “I almost always have a couple of non-fiction books on the go,” adding that she will also get into a good fiction every now and then.

She’s picked two books to showcase for this summer, both non-fiction by Canadian authors: The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, and One River by Wade Davis.

Meredith describes the former volume as an account of Indigenous people in North America and their imbalanced relationship with European settlers. While it is historical and fact based, she says it is made “easy and accessible,” as well as funny, through the author’s powerful storytelling skills.

“I have really been trying to understand the history of indigenous people in the [Ottawa River] watershed, and their connection to water, and it’s complicated — it’s really complicated,” Meredith says of the volume.

One River is also related to her profession, as it details the journeys of explorer and ethnobotanist Wade Davis as he travels along the Amazon River, encountering the native plants and people of South America.

“I don’t always have enough room for adventure in my life… this is my way of doing some exploring and travelling by reading,” Meredith says of the book.

For Meredith, both of these books are her way of exploring the passions and issues she encounters with her job in a more engaging way.

“For work I read research papers sometimes, or I read reports, more and more short snippets instead of getting into big, long books; there’s nothing like a book,” she says.

“It’s about learning and increasing my knowledge,” she continues. “A lot of my reading now [is] really related to my work — not mandatory, but I’m interested in really expanding my knowledge, as everybody is who reads.”

This post is part of our annual summer reads issue. Read all of our 2017 profiles right here.

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