There's not a lot that scares Sarah Wilson. At 46, she's battled life-long health issues, closed down her multi-million dollar I Quit Sugar empire at the height of its popularity, travelled the world solo and confronted her own mortality a number of times.
"But I tell you what scares me the most," she says. "It's how humanity is going to cope in coming decades, how we will cope emotionally if we don't wake up in time."
Her latest book This One Wild and Precious Life is perhaps the wake-up call we need - the working title was actually Wake the F*** Up. Our interview takes place while Wilson, who's back in Sydney, is walking somewhere. We'll get back to that; walking, being in nature, is one of the keys to it all.
I'm not feeling quite as energetic. Wilson's book has literally kept me up all night. It's overwhelming at times. Are things really that bad? Yes, they are, is the answer I come to.
It's a discussion about climate change, loneliness, racial injustice, political fragmentation and, as the publication date was delayed again and again, the effects of the coronavirus and the bushfires and how the past few years have just left us all in a state of ... Wilson calls it disconnection, and that's the perfect word for it.
"I didn't really see these things as separate issues," she says. "Disconnection is the overarching thing and everything else is just a symptom. It's all intertwined, interlinked, and in some ways that can make it easier for us to deal with.
"Rather than thinking that it's all separate, feeling like that little girl trying to plug the holes in the dyke, it's about recognising that it's the same thing and not only is it the same problem, it's actually the same solution."
And that solution, she says, is coming back to nature.
"We've got to come back to nature, come back to our nature, come back to the way we're meant to be. I say throughout the book, we will save what we love, we will save what we're connected to.
"It's kind of a simpler and far more elegant and joyous solution in the end, everything will flow in, everything will become connected again. I know that sounds a bit woowoo, but it's not."
But surely it's not as simple as that? If we all head out for a walk, or spend a weekend camping in the bush, or plant a tree, are all the world's problems going to be solved?
"It's all about the ripple effect - there are thousands of studies citing the benefits of being in nature."
One of the more interesting aspects of this book is the amount of research Wilson has done. She references studies, and philosophers, and poets and politicians. The former journalist has done her homework.
The book took her more than three years to write. In 2017, she published First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, which chronicled her life-long battle with anxiety, and it got her to thinking about a more collective anxiety, an anxiety fuelled by this disconnection, and she knew she had to continue the journey.
What followed was a three-year expedition that took her from the Greek Islands, to Cumbria's Lake District, to Tasmania's Cradle Mountain, to Joshua Tree National Park in California. Many of them are discussed in the book, not only where she went, but her observations, the lessons she learned, the people she met along the way.
We go off-route for a while, talking about the well-documented scientific benefits of walking. How we're more creative, how our brain patterns change when we're in motion, she knows it's been one of the best fixes for her bipolar disorder over the years.
"We emerged into human-hood walking in nature," she writes in the book. "Our human brain evolved because we got upright and walked. Our sentience and awareness - the stunning and special stuff that sets us apart from the animal kingdom - evolved to the rhythms of walking and in response to the patterns in nature we saw when we quit schlepping around on all fours and began looking upwards.
"Hiking brings us back to our nature because hiking is how we know our nature."
The joy of walking in nature, she says, reminds us of what we're fighting for.
And so too do other little things. Not only is This One Wild and Precious Life an examination of the problems. There is also some instruction to it. Part of it does come back to the idea of well, what can I do, what difference can I make, I'm just one person. There's a whole section entitled "Start where you are": "Wherever you are in your life right in this moment is your vehicle for waking up."
Her suggestions range from cultivating deep vulnerable love for other people, cultivating kindness. She wants us all to be "soul nerds", to be curious about biology, history, philosophy, literature, classical music and poetry and art. She wants us to reduce waste, buy less, recycle, start a love affair with leftovers.
"You buy less, you become more."
Where does she see her life five years from now?
"Gosh that's a hard one ... I'd like to become increasingly settled, how will I put it, with my wildness. It's been a journey throughout my life to find a way to fit into polite society. I've gone to the hard spots, haven't I? Cosmo, the mainstream media, in all directions, where you have to behave yourself, and that was great, I don't regret a moment of it.
"But getting older is one of the best things that can happen to a human. I enjoy getting to grow older, I enjoy the settledness, the wisdom, the clarity that I am experiencing.
"I think, especially through the writing of this book, I have arrived. I've arrived at who I am and who I need to be and I hope in the next five years that becomes even more clarifying."
But don't think for one minute, even if Wilson thinks she arrived, that this wild, precious woman will ever stop moving.
- This One Wild And Precious Life: A hopeful path forward in a fractured world, by Sarah Wilson. Pan Macmillan, $34.95. An In Conversation tour will follow next year with dates in regional areas and capital cities. Canberra, February 8, 2021. Tickets from livenation.com.au