Bill Mollison, A World Class Environmental Visionary, Has Died

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Joint press release from the Permaculture Association and Permaculture Magazine

Bil Mollison
Australian educator, author and co-inventor of Permaculture, Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison, died on the 24 September 2016 in Sisters Creek, Tasmania, and has been praised across the world for his visionary work.

Born 1928 in the Bass Strait fishing village of Stanley, Tasmania, Bill’s life story included backwoodsman, academic, storyteller, lady’s man, and to many just ‘Uncle Bill’, doing all these things par excellence. Bill was co-founder, with David Holmgren, of the permaculture movement – a worldwide network of remarkable resilience, with organisations now operating in 126 countries and projects in at least 140, inspiring individuals and communities to take initiatives in fields as diverse as food production, building design, community economics and community development.

Bill left much useful information and numerous words of guidance and encouragement for those who will miss him most: “The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”

Growing up in Stanley, Tasmania he left school at fifteen to help run the family bakery and before 26 went through the occupations of shark fisherman and seaman (bringing vessels from post-war disposals to southern ports), forester, mill-worker, trapper, snarer, tractor-driver and naturalist. His lack of formal education gave him many learning opportunities in how the real world works.

bill-mollison-1

Bill joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO, Wildlife Survey Section) in 1954 and gained extensive research knowledge. His time in the Tasmanian rainforests gave him the founding structure for what became his life’s passion, Permaculture. The idea that we could consciously design sustainable systems which enabled human beings to live within their means and for all wildlife to flourish with us.

A spell at the Tasmanian Museum in curatorial duties, a return to field work with the Inland Fisheries Commission took him back to college in 1966 living on his wits running cattle, security bouncing at dances, shark fishing, and teaching part-time at an exclusive girls’ school. Upon receiving his degree in bio-geography, he was appointed to the University of Tasmania where he later developed the unit of Environmental Psychology. During his university period (which lasted for 10 years), Bill independently researched and published a three-volume treatise on the history and genealogies of the descendants of the Tasmanian aborigines.

In 1974, he with David Holmgren developed the beginning of the permaculture concept, leading to the publication of Permaculture One. He became fixated on proving and promulgating what he saw as a world renewing concept. Leaving the University in 1978, abandoning a secure academic tenure at the age of fifty (an unheard of move) Bill devoted all his energies to furthering the system of permaculture and spreading the idea and principles worldwide.

He founded the Permaculture Institute in 1978, his ideas influencing hundreds of thousands students worldwide. As a prolific teacher, Bill taught thousands of students directly, and contributed to many articles, curricula, reports, and recommendations for farm projects, urban clusters and local government bodies.

mollison-1

In 1981, he received the Right Livelihood Award (sometimes called the “Alternative Nobel Prize”) for his work in environmental design. In recent years, he has established a “Trust in Aid” fund to enable permaculture teachers to reach groups in need, particularly in the poorer parts of the world, with the aim of leaving a core of teachers locally to continue appropriate educational work.

Of all the accolades he received, however, the one he was most proud of was the Vavilov Medal, in large part due to the tenacity, courage, and contributions of the award’s namesake, who Bill considered a personal hero. Bill was also the first foreigner invited and admitted to the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Bill came to the UK in the early 80s, visiting city farms and early permaculture projects, teaching courses and visiting the newly formed Permaculture Association. His charismatic style drew large audiences and led to a flurry of new projects and programmes.

We are helped in remembering Bill by his 1996 autobiography Travels in Dreams. Typically he laughs at himself: “This book is a work of fiction: most if not all of it is lies. Even the lies are imprecise reports of old lies overheard.” He wasn’t universally liked. One reason being he was committed to disrupt the status quo of misguided and unfeeling management. “First feel fear, then get angry. Then go with your life into the fight.” He was eloquent about the need for peaceful ‘warriors’, as he called them, to challenge the stupidity of ill-governance on a global scale. Despite, or perhaps because, he was an iconoclast, he engendered a global respect which will endure and grow as others develop his foundation thinking.

He authored a number of books on the permaculture design system, the best known being The Permaculture Designers’ Manual, published in 1988, and often cited as his most outstanding work. Bill collected solutions and his Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition, is an outstanding compendium of traditional food storage systems from across the world. Few could match his intellectual vigour or ability to recount stories that thrilled and taught deeper lessons about our relationship with each other and nature.

Bill asked : “Are we the public or the private person?” The truth of the matter is that for all seasons we are both. Perceived as challenging, a huge harvester of great ideas from around the world (and not always crediting their sources), Bill was also a sensitive man, eloquent raconteur, poet and appreciative of the poetry of others. He knew how to provoke others to action, but also when to withdraw and let others carry on the work. He paraphrased Lao Tzu: “True change is to so change things that it seems natural to everybody but no-one knows who thought of it.” And: “Our best will not be our children’s best.”

Bill returned to his Tasmanian homeland to spend his final years at Sisters Creek on the Bass Strait coast.

Bill’s legacy is that hundreds of thousands of past students have created a worldwide network to take his concept forwards. In a world in which we are acutely aware of our environment, its capacity and limitations, permaculture design offers a systemic approach to meeting human needs which respect those limitations and provide strategies to actively repair ecosystems. The effect of Bill’s legacy will only grow as the world recognises the urgent need to work together on environmental solutions.

4 thoughts on “Bill Mollison, A World Class Environmental Visionary, Has Died

  1. Leo Post author

    In 1989, Bill Mollison visited The Netherlands for a series of lectures at the Technical University Eindhoven. He was invited by Sietz Leeflang, founder of De Kleine Aarde and De Twaalf Ambachten, Dutch pioneer of sustainable development and small scale responsible enterprise.
    At the invitation of Sietz, Bill designed a part of the Twaalf Ambachten property. He sketched a herb spiral, without specifying measurements. Sietz interpreted the sketch as a design for a garden of 20 meters in diameter. Bill later used this incident as an example of miscommunication between designer and client and how that can lead to innovation. By 2012 the spiral garden had evolved into an ecological swimming pond. Life evolves and goes on…
    Thanks for all the fishes, Bill!

  2. Leo Post author

    Declan Kennedy about Bill Mollison/facebook translated from German

    I am mourning my friend Bill Mollison

    One of the most important approaches to networking environmental measures – from the individual house or smaller settlements to the planning of entire regions – we learned enough – my wife margrit Kennedy and I-1981, and brought him a year later from Australia to Europe. This approach is called ” Permaculture ” (approximately ” Duration-culture “, from the mating of the English words permanent agriculture) and transmits the principles closed ecological cycles in nature on the planning of human settlements. This was the initial spark for us by Bill Mollison, the 1981 of us, at the instigation of Rudolf Doer, had invited to Berlin. Bill Mollison had this ecological concept in the 70 s, along with David Holmgren in Australia, and was developed by his lectures since the early 80 s, more and more followers in the world for it.

    After about ten years 1982-92 very closely with bill mollison worked together, had our paths began in the early 90 s, but the joy was great, as we are at the beginning of June 2005 In the historic town of montovun in istria, at the 7. International Permaculture meeting once again able to see. I had along with some other participants at the meeting just sepp holzers permaculture project in Austria and was visited with you about ljubljana to istria. Although I bill now for almost 24 years knew and sepp holzer just one day, surprised me the resemblance and at the same time, the contrast between these two men. Similar to the ” Agri-Rebels ” as a creative practitioners, in her ” gardening with nature “, in your discerning bull calf, their tell joy and her charisma, men who are innovative, far-sighted and practically at the same time, as long as the problems Have dedicated themselves to you, until you saw for your respective klimagebiet lasting environmental solutions were found. The contrast was for me in the concentration on his project at holzer that just was 64 years old, while mollison despite his old age, with 78 still the same global openness with which he had over the decades, the we Always knew back on new projects had gotten involved.

    I would like to now, however, my friendship with bill mollison, of me – especially at the beginning – very generous to share his experience, has a man for a friend, and teacher was an uncomfortable visionary in Canada in 1982 One of the largest and most successful permaculture meetings in North America, founded the motto: “think globally – act locally”.
    Born In 1928 in Australia, he lived from his 15. To 28. Years of age, alone in the Australian Bush, and worked as a trapper, lumberjack, fishermen and bauer – often together or in close neighborly relationship with the indigenous Australians – the Australian indigenous people. From that time he had a wealth of stories, all of you, to which he told, enthusiastic. From the kängeruh-hunting, in which the aborigines with the animals contact recordings and you have given your appreciation, as well as the need for you to kill, to an animal to the hunter, feet. Or from the history with the black swans, the bill was watching and then came to him, and in a circle around him into action. Always there were stories, the man and nature in the deep contact and harmony with each other, showed something in our western civilization barely exists.

    After Bill found out that this civilization the territories of the Aborigines, more and more destroyed, he began – in order to stop this development-1955 to study again. While still a student, he was a researcher and teacher and began as an environmentalist to participate actively in the environmental policy of his country. He prevented dam projects, fought for the expulsion of nature conservation reserves and stepped on the side of the aboriginal people for their rights.

    As an optimist, he wanted to restore the garden of Eden – for everyone. He tried beyond the basics for a concept, which is to create not only was open for new information, but also the knowledge about sustainable, organic techniques from all parts of the world was able to integrate.

    During the campaign against the dam on the Franklin River in Tasmania in the 70 s – he was a lecturer at the university in hobart – he met his later co-Author David Holmgren. They started to discuss why the agriculture of the aborigines had survived the times and why the modern agriculture only a relatively short-term fad would be about what you learn from the aboriginal people and we could be their concepts with new technology and new scientific findings Get in line. They began to experiment, to design and to write. With the help of the Japanese-speaking Aussie Dope Dealer, Andrew Jeeves integrated you the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka (the one-Straw Revolution, 1975), they took over the key line concept of Ken Yeomans (water for every farm, 1954) and f. H. Kings Observations of the highly productive agricultural concepts of Asia (from farmers of forty centuries – permanent agriculture in China, Korea and Japan, 1911). It did not create the concept for a permanent country -, water and forestry, which she called “Permaculture” ( Permanent Agriculture).

    There is no dogma permaculture or fixed borders has but rather a series of basic principles which are applicable to everything, he found always new and more friends like the architects Ian and lecki ord in Melbourne, the engineer and farmer Max Lindegger (designer of Crystal Waters, Permaculture Village, Queensland), or Sonja Wall Man (with their productive wall greenhouse in the vicinity of Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and many other people in Australia, Europe and North America. The Permaculture-Design System He has defined and integrated with strands and make links between the separate sciences and areas of classical university departments made it.

    Now (2016) have over thousands of independent permaculture associations – in almost all languages – all over the world. Now – more than 40 years later – it serves people – with sustainable agriculture, reforestation, Bio-Architecture, environmental education and regional economics and the search for a integrationskonzept. Bill’s commitment and enthusiasm advanced continuously the multidisciplinary quality of the concept and made it to a permaculture system, but not always. For me is the most beautiful definition, which comes from bill mollison, ” Permaculture is a dance with nature – in which the nature leads.”

    The first book of bill mollison and David Holmgren Permaculture One (1978) was soon thereafter by Bill’s permaculture two (1979) and both had 1985 each with a circulation of over 100 000 copies. The two books are on my reason in German, Portuguese, French and Italian and there have been translated into the early-to mid-80 s. They are based than manuals very heavily on the experiences in Tasmania and for other climates are only partially transferable. Spanish and French translations followed later by the cooperation with Emilia Hazelip, soon to be the most well-known permaculture teacher on both sides of the pyennéen.

    However, the principles are as good as transferable and innovative, that you sometimes established concepts of the agriculture and forestry, the settlement water, urban planning and architecture on the head. They are building on the experience in draft holistic ways of life in different cultures and countries on and take little consideration on modern recipes or conventions. For us, and many other messengers you and he is also a new lifestyle.

    At the first visit in Germany, at the invitation of the students of the faculty of architecture and the British council – both of which I was able to secure the support of his journey and his lecture fee – should be to finance bill at the beginning of may 1981 except in Berlin also lectures in various cities in West – Germany, organized by Rudolf Dornach, keep. Due to exceptional circumstances were the rest of the lectures (PERSCH ING-Deployment-protests Germany far) has been cancelled and bill stayed a whole week – yes 10 days – with us in Berlin-Schlachtensee to guest. He told us every day from morning to evening of his projects and projects in Australia. And since we’re both the theme “Ecology” – I’m in the university as a professor of infrastructure in the city – construction and my wife (Margrit) in the context of their work for the International Exhibition (IBA) Berlin 1987-as the main task, heard And we look forward to your attention. Our questions showed bill that, in 1981, we in Europe were very similar problems. From the forests to the climate change, from the poisoning of food to the water wasting what Australia, everything was covered, as well as for us to find. The most important to us, but was with him that we were able to discuss solutions, which also changed slightly to be working with us.

    It was not only fun but also terrifying when bill facts and details about the global ecological situation we called, until then very fragmented only knew. But his unusual solutions convinced us both. He started with his statements at 9 O ‘ clock in the morning and I heard at midnight. We had such a thing as a concentrated private 72-Hour Permaculture Designer course – with many practical examples, drawings and graphics. The costs were modest: 2 Packs of cigarettes and a bottle of Irish whiskey per day.

    We started in 6 by 12 metres large garden and in the woods around the schlachtensee plants, sometimes to observe and to pick in the garden. Margrit was a vegetarian. In the evening we had with bill – the avid meat eaters was – go to a restaurant to lamb or for him to order a steak. In the ” Paris bar ” in the kantstrasse in Berlin-Charlottenburg, where he was – as always – a German wine order wanted to him, and the waiter said, slightly embarrassed that they serve only french wine. He called a ” Hardy Wallbanger ” (Orange juice With vodka). Because even the waiter had to laugh. Such cultural contrast-situations loved bill and somehow she has produced everywhere.

    We have several times with him to kreuzberg in the rehabilitation of the international architecture exhibition areas dangers, where we both with different groups in the hausbesetzerszene worked. Even though he doesn’t generally cities suffer and no good reason for their survival could find, he had immediately creative solutions for the people, who are ready, which is a city-farm or you can build your herbs and vegetables and even wanted to draw (1981). What energy saving and grey So, water recycling in kreuzberg were some interesting models also for to see him, and so it was time for the beginning of a years of intense exchange of ecological knowledge of national borders and continents.
    In the early 80 s, tried to bill a kind of “Permaculture-Bible” to write. About half of his designer s’ manuals (1988) is brilliant, especially the chapter on patterns (pattern) and design (Draft). There is hardly any other book which is the ” Multidisciplinary design for life ‘ so thoroughly treated. Other chapter in the designer s’ manual let things in your tended to be desired. It was only in 2009 by Margaret Woods and marlis ortner in Austria translated into German and moved.

    Another book: Introduction to permaculture, what bill together with reny slash wrote and illustrated by Andrew Jeeves, was published in 1991 and explains permaculture for the first time in a generally understandable kind and systematic approach. It also offers practical experience of many permaculture-activists in Australia and other countries. But above all it is the result of the research carried out by bill mollison and reny slash, in the 90 s with the Australian Permaculture Institute to new south Wales, and were moved there with their work of Marilyn Wade were supported. Also other numerous helpers there experiments with plants, buildings and technical infrastructure, while bill on lecture-travel around the world was on the way.
    Margrit and I have with the help of many other professionals, permaculture one and two in the second edition edited. A very good successful article with coloured pictures is in the Basel Newspaper (no. 40, p. 10-15) published in 1984 and contains what we ourselves in the environmental planning and building developed and that what we are and from bill mollison David Holmgren to have learned. We thank both still for their ideas, their perseverance and commitment.

    it was bill and reny, which is the first European Permaculture Design course in jagdschloss glienicke with me as an assistant in the summer of 1982, had offered. Because he was held in English, there were 24 participants from 7 COUNTRIES IN EUROPE AND 2 interested parties from Brazil. Antja – our then 21-Year-old daughter – has the course not only but also participated in the evening, 2-hour repetitorien for the German and Austrian participants. It wasn’t for you, just the Australian / Tasmanian accent of Bill’s English to understand, particularly because he’s half the time by his tobacco pipe articulated.

    Since then, 7 participants of this course a three-quarters of a year and hit every Saturday at the design concepts, so we worked together in wetz hausen at pig furth the first held in German 2-Week Permaculture Design course (PDC = Permaculture Decign Course) could hold.
    After that, I started my new career as a ” Mr. Permaculture Europe ” (East and west) the I with chubby chaser sons ‘ full support. Except in Germany and Brazil 1982, I have up to 1991 the first and / or two permaculture design courses in Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Each of these courses was of Gaia Trust (Hildur & Ross Jackson, even students and joy of bill) in Denmark.

    1993 were the books of bill mollison over ferment and 1996 another entitled travel in dreams the successes of the first books does not happen again. But the international permaculture movement has now grown – on the basis of the first books and one of many co-Author / inside revised two to three-week designer course. In Europe is the transfer of the concept on northern climates in full swing. She met – in part – on sharp criticism of science and practice because of their unusual theses and methods.

    I have so much of bill mollison learned and were so enthusiastic about the permaculture-vision that I – as well as many other people, who in the 80 s and early 90 s with this vision had come in contact with – a own permaculture – project wanted to achieve. That is why we have our home in Berlin and our two bodies, I abandoned my professorship at the technical university of Berlin and margrit your job at the international exhibition, and we have to build a ab1985 ecological community involved in lower saxony – the steyerberg lebensgarten. We’ve got in there in a settlement which has been built in 1939 and renovated two houses on 2.6 hectares of land in the vicinity and a whole series of Permaculture-experiments carried out. Temporarily, I headed the permaculture institute for Europe in life garden. Bill Mollison was so begistert lebensgarten approaches from each year that he at least einal in steyerberg came by – and this is more than 11 years – and always brought a new impulse. As a whole has the thinking in permaculture-Categories Now and I am glad and grateful that I relatively early 1981 with this concept and bill mollison came into contact, and that I had the chance to spread it and For our climate zones to try out.

    While the work of my wife margrit since the late 80 s, more and more on the introduction of sustainable geldsysteme has shifted, and you with your book “money without interest rates and inflation” nowadays a galeon figure of the money has become reform movement was This work both for you as well as for mollison and me always a part of our implementation of the permaculture-concept. How to create a lasting culture, if it is not a permanent money system? Just the last few months with the crash on the international financial markets and in the global economy – the now even the most pressing environmental problems overshadowed – shows how strong economy and ecology interwoven. In the permaculture “Bible”, has bill also a chapter on the monetary system, which is fitted to a large extent on mar grits work to build up.

    Still smoked and he drank too much and became so sick that he’s a couple of times on his travels together is broken – and yet he is 88 years old. It continued more and more to him that he had to see how the ecological situation in the world has been getting worse and worse, and in spite of the ever-increasing permaculture movement on this general trend was nothing to change. Bill has been depressed for a while, what he himself ignored. He felt by many allies abandoned in the last 110 years, because they were when he abandons. In the meantime, however, he had recovered, and his sharp critical attitude which sometimes threatening in cynicism, andall found again. In between, you could have him back in its original joie de vivre. In Istria in June 2005 he came to start with his sarcastic jokes among the younger people in the permaculture movement who didn’t know it yet, not very good at – but with his many stories, jokes and living here soon, he found his Rightful place as a co-Founder, distributors and grandfather of permaculture – then he has been for several days celebrated by all those present. All of us, he will be sorely missed.
    Steyerberg, 25.09.2016

  3. Leo Post author

    Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison 1928-2016
    Graham Bell
    Sunday, 25th September 2016
    Graham Bell’s moving tribute to Bill Mollison, who died 24 September in Tasmania, a true pioneer who gave up a promising academic career to challenge the status quo and establish the global Permaculture movement.

    Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison (born 1928 in Stanley, Tasmania, Australia and died today, 24 September 2016 in Sisters’ Creek, Tasmania).

    A few people are born who are world class heroes to those who know them and unknown to the great majority, until one day their inescapable influence floats to the surface and is generally recognised for the cream it is. In hindsight such leaders go on to become household names.

    Such a man was Bill Mollison: backwoodsman, academic, storyteller, lady’s man and to many just ‘Uncle Bill’, but doing all these things par excellence. In consequence he has left a worldwide movement of remarkable resilience. He has left much useful information and not a few words of guidance and encouragement for those who will miss him most.

    Growing up in Stanley, Tasmania, he left school at fifteen to help run the family bakery and before 26 went through the occupations of shark fisherman and seaman (bringing vessels from post-war disposals to southern ports), forester, mill-worker, trapper, snarer, tractor driver and naturalist.

    His lack of formal education gave him many learning opportunities in how the real world works.

    Bill joined the CSIRO (Wildlife Survey Section) in 1954 and gained extensive research knowledge. His time in the Tasmanian rainforests gave him the founding structure for what became his life’s passion – Permaculture. The idea that we could consciously design sustainable systems which enabled human beings to live within their means and for all wild life to flourish with us.

    A spell at the Tasmanian Museum in curatorial duties, a return to field work with the Inland Fisheries Commission took him back to college in 1966 living on his wits running cattle, security bouncing at dances, shark fishing, and teaching part-time at an exclusive girls’ school. Upon receiving his degree in bio-geography, he was appointed to the University of Tasmania where he later developed the unit of Environmental Psychology. During his university period (which lasted for 10 years), Bill independently researched and published a three-volume treatise on the history and genealogies of the descendants of the Tasmanian aborigines.

    In 1974, with David Holmgren, Bill developed the beginning of the permaculture concept, leading to the publication of Permaculture One. He became fixated on proving and promulgating what he saw as a world renewing concept. Leaving the University in 1978, abandoning a secure academic tenure at the age of fifty (an unheard of move) Bill devoted all his energies to furthering the system of permaculture and spreading the idea and principles worldwide. He has taught thousands of students, and has contributed many articles, curricula, reports, and recommendations for farm projects, urban clusters and local government bodies.

    In 1981, Bill Mollison received the Right Livelihood Award (sometimes called the “Alternative Nobel Prize”) for his work in environmental design. In recent years, he has established a ‘Trust in Aid’ fund to enable permaculture teachers to reach groups in need, particularly in the poorer parts of the world, with the aim of leaving a core of teachers locally to continue appropriate educational work.

    We are helped in remembering Bill by his 1996 autobiography Travels in Dreams. Typically he laughs at himself: “This book is a work of fiction: most if not all of it is lies. Even the lies are imprecise reports of old lies overheard.” He wasn’t universally liked. One reason being he was committed to disrupt the status quo of misguided unfeeling management. “First feel fear, then get angry. Then go with your life into the fight.” He was eloquent about the need for peaceful ‘warriors’ as he called them to challenge the stupidity of ill-governance on a global scale. His own fears about being ineffectual were misguided: “Nobody takes any notice of me and even my friends continually criticise me.” In reality he engendered a massive global respect which will endure and grow as others develop his foundation thinking.

    The pinnacle of his career to his students was the publication in 1988 of The Permaculture Designers Manual, honoured to this day by devotees as ‘The Bible of Permaculture’. If devotees suggests falsely some religious connotation it’s really that Bill pioneered a deep respect for the planet and for more sensible approaches for how we could live on it: “We are true time scouts finding places now for what will be needed then.”

    Bill asked: “Are we the public or the private person?” The truth of the matter is that for all seasons we are both. Perceived as challenging, a huge harvester of great ideas from around the world (and not always crediting their sources) Bill was also a sensitive man, eloquent raconteur, poet and appreciative of the poetry of others. He knew how to provoke others to action, but also when to withdraw and let others carry on the work. He paraphrased Lao Tzu: “True change is to so change things that it seems natural to everybody but no-one knows who thought of it.” And: “Our best will not be our children’s best.”

    Though often outwardly gruff and challenging there was real heart to everything he did.

    Bill Mollison founded the first and original Permaculture Institute, which was established in 1979 to teach the practical design of sustainable soil, water, plant, and legal and economic systems to students worldwide. Bill’s legacy is that hundreds of thousands of past students have created a world-wide network to take his concept forward. This is a world in which we are acutely aware of our environment, its capacity and its limitations, and we design systems to meet human needs which respect that.

    Bill spent his final years in Sisters’ Creek, Tasmania. The final words must go to him in true classical tone:

    “If you hear that I am dead tell them they lie.“

    Graham Bell is the author of The Permacultiure Way and The Permaculture Garden and has been teaching permaculture internationally for over two and a half decades. He has one of the oldest forest gardens in the Borders of Scotland.

    Cross-posted from grahambell.org with our thanks.

  4. Leo Post author

    David Holmgren farewells Bill Mollison, the father of permaculture
    David Holmgren shares some words on the life of his influential mentor…
    pcd_bill-mollison

    Photographer: unknown
    With the passing of Bill Mollison, aged 88, in Tasmania on Saturday (24/9/2016) comes the end of an era for many thousands of people around the world whose lives were transformed by the teaching and writing of one of Australia’s most influential ecological pioneers.
    bill-mollison-david-holmgren

    Bill Mollison and David Holmgren at APC9 in Sydney, 2008. Photo: Russ Grayson

    My two year student/mentor relationship with Bill from late 1974 was certainly the defining relationship that set the course for the rest of my life. The article ‘A Chance Meeting’ (below) recalled that pivotal moment when I first met Bill and effectively selected him as ‘the teacher’. Bill’s brilliance was in gathering together the ecological insights, principles, strategies and techniques that could be applied to create the world we do want rather than fighting against the world we reject.

    His personal life was as tumultuous as his public persona, at times tragic but always full of the passion and contradiction that the term ‘ecological warrior’ represents. His legacy lives on in all those who were transformed by his teaching.

    This tribute by leading British permaculture teacher, Graham Bell, provides an excellent overview of his life including his confronting character.

    Chance Meeting
    A chance meeting in Spring 1974; I decided to go to college rather than spend the day turning the compost, making bread and maybe finalising the garden plan. The plan, part of my last semester project, was still evolving in my head and on the ground. It seemed crazy to spend a sunny spring day in the “Dexion” and chipboard rabbit warren that was E.D.* , surrounded by blank brick walls hiding the brilliant view of the snow covered mountain. Still, I felt I should put in an appearance at least once a week; to show that I was still participating. Well, at least E.D. gave me the freedom to follow my passions and set my own agenda; a far cry from any other design course in Australia.I picked my way through the bean bags that barred the way to the panoramic programme board in the small foyer. Pinned notices, personal messages, campaign slogans, emphasis circles and highlights, redirection arrows and cancellations complicated the semblance of structure and order of the underlying programme. I scanned the board for anything of interest or importance.

    Bill Mollison during a plant stock collecting trip around Tasmania in 1975.

    Bill Mollison during a plant stock collecting trip around Tasmania in 1975. Photo: David Holmgren

    A seminar “How Patterns of Land Tenure Shape the Exploitation of Natural Resources” sounded mildly interesting. I wondered whether our household efforts at self sufficient living in a rented house with a friendly and helpful landlady might be a relevant example. Most young people seemed to think it was really weird putting so much work into building up the soil and improving the garden, when we didn’t own the house. Well it wasn’t the landlady that was cutting short my tenure. The shared house thing was starting to go sour with John and Sue. They obviously wanted their own space, as a couple with their baby. It was time to move on. But what a pain – with the garden planted and only a month to go before flying back to Western Australia for end year holidays.

    The seminar, and most of the contributions from the usual participants seemed fairly predictable but there was this guy from the Uni** whose contribution caught my attention. He talked about how rabbit trappers could have controlled rabbits (prior to Myxomatosis) if they had the incentive through a stake in the land (owned by the graziers or the state). Don’t think anyone saw the relevance to the topic (I hadn’t mentioned our insignificant efforts at suburban self sufficiency in a rented property). The discussion meandered back to how urban planning controls could or couldn’t shape urban structure and therefore resource use.

    Afterwards I went over to speak to this bloke from the Uni. Some of the staff and older post grad students seemed to know him, but I had never seen him around E.D. before. He might have been late forties I supposed, stocky, balding slightly, beard covering protruding chin. Meaty hands and thick nicotine stained fingers; of a working man, I thought. I followed up on his idea; we talked on for ages about the rabbit problem and more. His way of thinking and expression were fascinating; grounded but at same time, holistic. Ecological! I thought, but not like any of the activists who called themselves ecologists, or the academically trained ones, who seemed just as reductionist as most scientists. We exhausted our time, then he asked about my arm being in a sling. A brief recount of the motorbike accident and needing to move out of Blackman’s Bay led to an offer to stay till the end of the school year at his place up Strickland Ave on the slopes of the mountain. Sounded ideal.

    His name was Bill Mollison.
    David Holmgren

    ‘A Chance Meeting‘ first appeared in the 2011 Permaculture Diary 2011, compiled by Michele Margolis.

    * Environmental Design department at College of Advance Education
    ** University of Tasmania

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