‘We need to love our planet’: Water resources engineer pens children’s book on the ‘magic’ of Earth

Mary Trudeau, A Tale of Two Planets Earth

After decades of working in the “constellation” between science and public policy, one Ottawa scientist is ready to make waves in a new area — the world of children’s books.

Mary Trudeau began her career as a civil engineer specializing in water resources before pursuing a PhD and founding two consultancy companies. Now, she says, she “can turn any conversation into a conversation about water” — and it’s time to bring a younger audience into the discussion.

“It’s easy, because 90 per cent of humans, depending on age and hydration level, is water. It’s us, it’s our environment, it’s what we look for when we look for life on other planets,” she said. “I love playing in it, I love working in it, I love its beauty, and it’s such an amazing thing … Really, it all comes from a passion for water.”

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As a civil engineer, Trudeau managed municipal water infrastructure and provided science-informed policy consultations, where she got a “good sense” for working in “the constellation that is the space between science and policy.”

From there, Trudeau became a business owner and principal at Marbek Resource Consultants Ltd., which was acquired by ICF International in 2011. Due to a non-compete agreement as part of the acquisition, Trudeau pursued a PhD in urban hydrology before founding Envirings Inc., an Ottawa-based policy consultancy, in 2014, where she is now director.

Between consulting with various agencies and teaching at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, Trudeau says she’s decided to tap into “kids’ natural sense of wonder” to accomplish her mission.

“I’ve worked in policy, program development, blah, blah, blah, for 20 years,” she laughed. “And it just feels that the most important thing to do right now is that we really need to love our planet.”

And so, what began as absent-minded sketches and scribbles 10 years ago has now been realized in A Tale of Two Planets, a passion project that Trudeau rediscovered on a shelf and “dusted off.”

“I draw, I paint a little bit and I did a few little cartoons, thinking, ‘What if a planet didn’t work for us, what if it didn’t just recycle nutrients and water like ours does?’” she said. “I put it literally on a shelf and found it (when I was) dusting and last summer I thought, ‘I either have to do something with this or throw it out.’

“But I couldn’t throw it out.”

In the illustrated children’s book, Wooshidooz creatures –  inspired by Trudeau’s son, who invented this name for aliens and imaginary beings as a child – live on the planet Retha, a “planet without magic,” and hear bedtime stories of “the Magic Planet”, Earth.

Retha is a planet “without a lot of magic,” where trees grow plastic leaves, pollen is Wooshidooz-made and water is collected and moved by hand, which the Wooshidooz do happily to take care of their home. When they hear stories about Earth and its “magical” self-sufficiency, they know it must be imaginary. But one little Wooshidooz named Anaag believes that Earth is more than a bedtime story, and he sets off to learn about its magic for himself.

Available at Singing Pebble Books and Perfect Books in Ottawa, as well as White Pine Books in Arnprior, Mill Street Books in Almonte, and online, A Tale of Two Planets introduces readers to the magic of Earth’s water that Trudeau says has always inspired her.

“It’s about recognizing what (the planet) does for us, because we give more than we take, and it’s about wonder,” explained Trudeau. “If (kids) can keep that wonder and appreciate the planet, they can teach their parents. Parents learn a lot from their kids, speaking from experience, and it’s a two-way street.

“And if they take permission to be amazed, it’s a reminder that this is an amazing place, it’s really magic.”

The book encourages readers to think of caring for the planet the way they would an “ailing parent,” Trudeau continued, leading with “TLC” and “taking good care … We really need to start thinking of our planet in that way too.”

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