The Big Idea: Lisa Brideau

There’s no time like the present when it comes to making positive change. That’s certainly the case for author Lisa Brideau regarding policies on climate change. Follow along in her Big Idea to see how she crafts this changed world in her new novel, Adrift.


I work all day on climate policy. I am steeped in the projections scientists have created to model what our future will likely be based on our collective actions (cutting carbon pollution slowly or quickly or not). While there’s lots of great work underway and so many opportunities to cut carbon and improve our lives, the pace of change is frighteningly slow relative to what’s needed for a habitable (for us) planet.

This is not exactly a barrel of laughs on the daily.

The Big Idea behind Adrift was me wanting to spend time in a near-future version of where I lived, but one where we had done a lot of the hard necessary things to make life better. I wanted to spend time in a hopeful version of the future, but hopeful in a realistic way that acknowledges that some climate change impacts can’t be avoided, we’ve locked those in; I’m an engineer and too much of a realist to go Full Hopeful.

It was delightful to craft that world, to zip effortlessly to a future where Canada has gotten off fossil fuels. I got to skip the messy bits, just appear on the scene and look around, much like my main character who wakes up alone on a sailboat with no memory of who she is or how she got there.

I started Adrift years ago and rewrote it several times as I honed in on the story I wanted to tell against this climate-impacted (but hopeful!) version of British Columbia in 2038.

I created amnesia refugees, sent my character on a terrible sailing journey, and had her clash with shadowy figures in a fun page-turner that follows along as she tries to figure out what happened to her. I did worry a bit about whether the extreme weather events I’d depicted were too much, too unbelievable, that people would scoff.

Then 2021 hit.

In one year, British Columbia experienced:

  • a heat dome (the deadliest weather event in Canadian history; over 600 people died), 
  • the worst flooding ever seen in the province due to an atmospheric river (at one point the City of Vancouver was cut off from the rest of Canada as all roads out were closed), and 
  • another summer of terrible wildfires that made air quality hazardous for weeks at a time

All during a pandemic and an opioid crisis.

This blew out of the water the extreme weather events I’d put in Adrift. It’s always a risk with near-future fiction that reality will catch up to you more quickly than you anticipate.

I had time to make edits as we finalized the novel for publication, but in an effort to hold on to my hopeful(ish) future, I didn’t make things that much worse. So, in Adrift 2038 is an okay year, relative to 2021. Weather is variable, after all. We’re going to see a lot more extreme weather in the future, but not every year will build on the horrors of the one before, there will be some room to breathe.

I don’t know if regular people, who don’t spend all day immersed in climate change news, will find Adrift hopeful – but it has a Canada that’s mostly transitioned off fossil fuels for electricity, the vehicles on the streets are electric, steps have been taken to protect or leave areas vulnerable to sea level rise, etc. That’s an immense amount of progress to picture in such a short time. And, really, it’s the minimum we need to be on track to maintain a habitable planet.

I set my novel at a tipping point – one where there’s still a sliver of a chance to choose the right path, to avoid the worst possible outcome. But my real hope is that readers will finish and look up and realize, actually, now is the best moment we have to make big change. That’s the real Big Idea. That people will finish the book having had a good time and then get involved in real action to shift us away from fossil fuels.

Adrift: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Chapters Indigo|Powell’s

Author Socials: Website|Twitter|Instagram.

2 Comments on “The Big Idea: Lisa Brideau”

  1. I like the coming-to aspect mentioned. So often we only become aware of being adrift and unconscious after that’s been our condition for a while and it takes us by surprise when we wake up to reality. Autopilot to pilot mode. At least, when we become conscious we can assess things and do something about it. Sometimes serenity isn’t the best possible state.

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