To a lot of people it would seem drastically oversimplified, but I think the closer things remain to the way nature provides them, the better it is for us and the planet. If we let nature flourish, it will support us. Along with the benefits of preventing toxicity, working with nature rather than against it may help us to realize that we can always have enough. Instead of controlling the ‘weeds’, we could learn to value nature and all that it is able to provide for us in its effortlessly sustainable way.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Fisher, creator of the recently launched media platform Winglewood.
Helen had become increasingly aware that mainstream media outlets not only provide a restrictive perspective on our world issues, but also skew their emphasize to negativity, fear and drama. Winglewood seeks to balance this by offering an alternative source of news that brings together positive and actionable information, helping readers to see our world issues with fresh eyes. This is an endeavor of passion that Helen has started out on alone and is now gaining support from a growing readership alongside building relationships with many wonderful professionals who will share their knowledge on the various facets of creating a more sustainable society.
Alongside this, Helen continues to work with woodworker Richard Maguire, bringing together modern technology and traditional skills through their online educational business, The English Woodworker.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
My first love has always been nature, so I spent a lot of time as a kid playing outside, watching the bugs and gathering petals for ‘potions’. I grew up with three siblings and being together gave a wonderful sense of imagination and creativity. We spent a lot of time outside building dens, fighting pirates, exploring and teaching each other.
I also took great interest in learning, so I was studious at school, although I did become disillusioned by the ongoing education and fear of the ‘rat race’ so I left young and ventured out on my own. I continued studying with a distance education in design, alongside teaching myself how to build websites and run a business. I continue to learn every day. I suppose once you start to be your own teacher there’s really no reason to ever stop, and it puts you in a place of seeking understanding rather than consuming dictated ‘facts’. It’s a mindset that I really value, and feel it brings a unique quality to the work I’m doing with Winglewood.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I read a lot of books on design as a student exploring many different angles. It seems rude to say that I can’t remember the specific book or author this came from, but when trying to hone in on my interests I read about a Japanese approach to design that endeavors that a creation should age gracefully. Where metals might oxidize, or moss coat a surface it’s part of its continued life rather than something to control or fix.
I consider myself allergic to anything fake. I can appreciate all manner of styles but let it be true to itself, let it speak of its character. I don’t like where things are covered over with a shallow facade and this book expanded on those ideas for me.
It was focused on architecture but I think it also applies to other areas of our lives. We’re always at odds with nature, with time and with one another. We spend so much energy on keeping everything the way we want it, but there is something desirable to me about finding appreciation of the way things transform. Build things rugged, love their rawness, and allow them space to evolve. That could be a building, but just as easily a friendship or a business.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Is it ok for a quote to come from a dog? No words, just that awe filled expression on his face that says, ‘live in the moment, and never lose your love for the seemingly simple’. Bruce will never fail to make me laugh out of the blue when things get challenging or uncertain. His joyful appreciation inspires me to see that answers don’t always need to be complicated.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I would say that the less we respect and trust one another the more essential it becomes to have really defined, robust leadership and rules. But the more that we lay down the rules the more we throw away possibilities and potential.
To get the most out of a group of people you need to find that space where they feel heard and appreciated. We all enjoy some tasks and detest others. If you can find the right match then instead of friction people have engagement with what they’re doing. Such a nourishing approach requires leadership that is confident in itself. Truly confident inside, not just loud and clear.
I’ve never really taken a role of leader through life, but that would be the theory I’d aim at.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
Sustainability. Or lack of it through all areas; environmental, social, economic. I’m writing this from the UK and therefore considering it from the point of view of how the whole world needs healing, as these are issues that extend to all of us. At the heart of any issue that falls within this I see a problem of disconnect. So much of what we’re doing is falling apart because we focus on things in isolation and fail to see everything as part of a bigger picture.
If being disconnected is at the root of enormous problems, then we need to find the glue, or connections that bring everything into a more unified system.
Connections can offer a solution at all scales of problem. That’s what is so beautiful about looking at things in this way.
Our World is filled with excess and it’s filled with deprivation. It doesn’t take rocket science to make improvements. We can all play a role in how we can better fit within something that is bigger than each of us.
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
We focused on money and neglected joy. Miserable people limp through life, it leaves little time or energy to worry about the way in which we treat one another or the planet.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
When forming my ideas for Winglewood I was driven by my own interest and passion for nature, seeking to understand how the flow of the natural world can inspire us to rethink how we function as a society. It started as an exploration of my own thoughts and individual way of seeing things, which then led to me finding a whole world full of people and ideas that specialize within their own niches, but all resonate on the same theme. There really is no lack of alternatives for us to consider.
I’m learning and fascinated every day by the beautiful solutions being explored. This is the very beginning for Winglewood, but it’s incredibly exciting. There’s so much that I’m eager to bring awareness to, and I’d love to see the various ideas being brought together and combined.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
1) Make Your Purchases Count — We hear this a lot but I’m putting it in here because it’s powerful. If you’re reading this as a business owner or policy maker, then you have clout to make real change. But as consumers we also have the power to make shifts just with our choices. A business wants to stock what sells and politicians need votes.
Switching to sustainable buying habits can mean many things. It’s about taking awareness of the impact that an item makes before and after it’s sat there on the shelf. That’s everything from the welfare of animals, to potential toxicity caused by a product’s disposal. This is often about considering how your choices have an effect on the people and world around you, but I find when we add to this the impact of how your purchases affect you, then things start to feel much more relevant.
In our day to day lives we want to feel a level of financial stability so it’s important to note that going for the cheapest option today isn’t necessarily what will give us this.
This applies in multiple ways. There’s the poor-quality throw-away stuff that we have to keep rebuying rather than one purchase that’s built to last. There’s the impact that cheap and low quality has on our health. And there’s the knock to the security within our supply chain that poor consumer options can make. We’ve been shown this one clearly of late. Everything sourced from a small number of huge corporations leads to empty shelves with even small amounts of change. And scarcity on the shelves will in turn lead to skyrocketing prices.
So taking better awareness of where our stuff comes from is a step we can all take for better economic sustainability. But here’s the incredible part; when seen from this angle you can’t improve that side of things without also making improvements for the environment and society alongside.
Take our food supply for example. Uncertainty here is often caused by poor conditions for workers and animals. And toxic practices within farming can spread out so far that results are unpredictable and devastating. City water supplies have been halted due to poisonous algal blooms that have also been linked to the death of dogs taking a swim at the beach. It’s excessive chemical use within industrial farming that’s considered largely to blame. The cheap options tend to cost us all more in the long run.
Knowing what’s best to buy isn’t always obvious but there are some key areas we can clue ourselves up on. Sourcing small and local adds resilience and transparency whilst reducing transport needs. Supporting ethical food standards and regenerative farming practices can reduce environmental pollution and animal cruelty whilst increasing nutrition, health and food security. Choosing items made from sustainable materials can support the environment not only at the beginning of their life, but also through the cycle of waste disposal and ability for reuse.
Like I’ve said already, this stuff is powerful, and it’s a step that we can all take to be proactive every day.
2) Valuing Nature — As I’m writing this, I’m sitting looking out my window at a row of thistles that I’ve unintentionally left to grow out of control in my garden. Before I can get too annoyed a goldfinch lands to feed on one, then a second and now there’s three.
We’ve become dominating on the world, using force to control in an effort to meet our ever-growing needs. But through this we’ve lost out on how effortlessly nature can provide. Some things are so abundant that we call them weeds and let them drive us mad.
I like to point out that nature doesn’t worry about waste. Only humans have that problem.
In nature resources have a way of flowing from one use to another until they make it back into the soil to grow into something new.
If we want to look after the world then I think we need to allow nature to be an inspiration. It inflates our egos nicely to think we can do a better job, but the more we interfere the more we prevent the flow of resources, whilst causing harm to the health of ourselves and the planet.
For a long time natural solutions have been the minor alternative but I think this is ready to shift. People are realizing that not only can they work, but often they work better than what we’re used to and without the many negatives that come with our familiar choices. I’m being very broad here. It could be the product you use to clean your floor, the materials that build your home, or the food and medicines that you consume.
To a lot of people it would seem drastically oversimplified, but I think the closer things remain to the way nature provides them, the better it is for us and the planet.
If we let nature flourish, it will support us. Along with the benefits of preventing toxicity, working with nature rather than against it may help us to realize that we can always have enough. Instead of controlling the ‘weeds’, we could learn to value nature and all that it is able to provide for us in its effortlessly sustainable way.
3) Prioritize Your Own Health & Wellbeing — If you’re not happy, then do you know what you would desire more? If you’re unwell, then how could your lifestyle support you better?
This might seem out of place in a strategy about looking at the bigger picture, but I think it’s key. It might even be one of the most challenging steps that any of us can take. Perhaps putting yourself first feels impossible. And that’s why the way we do things needs to change.
We can’t function as one system, if individual wellness isn’t at the heart of it. The rigidity of society means that we’ve learnt that our needs don’t count. When we’re exhausted we still lash up the tie, throw ourselves into the rush hour traffic and rock up at the office with a half-baked smile plastered on our face.
It’s easy to see how this plays a part in our out of control problems.
Instead of feeling valued and taking time and space for our own needs we push on regardless. Instead of listening to our body, we take something to numb the pain or to stimulate us to surge on from a dwindling energy supply (a couple of paracetamols and a coffee forms a nice go to for both).
We stop operating from a place of engagement and enthusiasm and start trudging through life just the best we can.
This leads us to an approach to healthcare that treats symptoms instead of causes. And very often those causes could be extensive, prolonged stress, poor nutrition and other wellness factors that we could have taken into our own hands, if only our routine didn’t expect so very much from us.
We’ve turned our backs on joy and vitality which is a recipe for dissatisfaction and resentment. There’s little wonder that there’s so much tension in the world.
Self-care is critically important but this is the step that requires the most patience, especially if life is hectic. It can bring to mind the phrase ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’, as sometimes what’s best for you might feel like letting someone else down. But only you can take the steps to put yourself first, and I think we can all assist by considering the next point on my list.
4) Being Open Minded To Change — When we want things to be better we first have to get around the challenge of being uncomfortable with change itself.
When we see problems we have a tendency to get judgemental and look for blame. But if we want to improve things we have to open up to seeing them differently.
This is twofold.
Firstly, we need to stop putting the problem in someone else’s hands. If that isn’t through blaming, then it can also be through waiting for someone else to find the answer. Complex and technical solutions can be great, but they can also focus on a problem so tightly that many other potential solutions slip out of the net. So what ideas do you have that others might be missing? And what can you do right now rather than waiting?
The second side is allowing new ideas to be considered. We get comfortable with habits and trusting of particular information sources, sometimes to the point that we won’t try something new. This applies to all areas of our life. Just try to take note; if the only reason something seems like a bad idea to you is because it’s not what you’re used to doing, then maybe it could be worth hearing out. What’s the worst that could happen?
We are surrounded by a diversity of skills, opinions and ideas. That’s a beautiful thing and we should start to value it. Thinking outside of the box is a skill that few adults hold out to, but most of us were pros at it as children. Perhaps the route to being more open minded can be to take on a little of that inquisitive wander of a child.
5) Make One Tiny Change At A Time — When things are bad we often feel suffocated by the need to improve them quickly. But this attitude can cause more tension than solution and even can stall us from doing anything at all.
We need compassion and patience with this. Along with trust that the steps we’re taking are the right ones.
I really do believe that lots of little changes made by lots of people, could be powerful and create big and far reaching improvements. There are things we do in our everyday lives that could easily be switched to a more sustainable alternative, and the biggest challenge is just becoming aware of what they are.
We do things as habits so that there’s no need to overthink everything every day from scratch. We can’t expect ourselves to change all of that overnight, but we can introduce something new that suits us and allow that to become the effortless habit within our day.
This is all very broad so why not focus on what motivates you the most or has relevance to your interests and needs.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
My interest in creating change has come from simply observing that there are significant flaws with the way that we do things. This has led me to realise that there’s a huge level of enthusiasm, awareness and experience already out there from incredible people that we can learn from. This isn’t about finding ‘the’ expert, or ‘the’ answer, but more about broadening our perspective and valuing the many varied views, ideas and solutions that are being explored.
I wanted to do something hands on, so I’ve used my interest and existing skills to create the Winglewood website, where I’m building a hub for news and resources that can help us take fresh eyes to the way that we live our lives.
If people feel compelled, I would recommend that they take that step to explore a venture of their own, whether that’s online or in their local community. And I’d of course be delighted if they’d like to check out what I’m doing with Winglewood. There’s a lot that will be coming soon, working to bring other people’s experience and insights, alongside building a community where each of us can be a voice in sharing tips, problems and experiences. I’m wanting it to become a place where you can come and engage with actionable information for taking steps to improve the way we interact with our world, both in the day to day and the long term.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Absolutely. There are so many huge issues that combine here and it’s easy for things to feel impossible. But enormous improvements can be made with very simple, accessible changes. This isn’t a case of a solution not being available to us. It’s more a case of do people care enough to step back from their habits and start to consider things a bit differently. With the impact of the virus and the continued challenges through this year I’d say more people are ready to do that than ever before.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Because we can create lives that excite us, and who doesn’t want that? There’s never been more attention put on highlighting what we’ve been doing wrong, so if we want to make change now is the time for it. What sort of life do you want to live, and what do you want your world and communities to look like? Just thinking about that is a step forward.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Any major policy maker who’s itching to see things improve. I think it would be fun and valuable to share our perspectives. Someone who understands the legalities of how the system works, mixed with the opposite from myself; creative thinking unrestricted by knowledge of practicalities or red tape. I know I could learn a lot from that experience.
How can our readers follow you online?
The website is the best way https://www.winglewood.com
They can subscribe to email updates on there and also get involved with the ‘Winglewood Links’ which is a new knowledge share, where we’re helping one another to find the small improvements we can make in our days.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!