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Bill Mollison

bill mollison, bill mollison permaculture
Bruce Charles "Bill" Mollison 4 May 1928 – 24 September 2016 was an Australian researcher, author, scientist, teacher and biologist He is referred to as the "father of permaculture" Permaculture a portmanteau of "permanent agriculture" is an integrated system of ecological and environmental design which Mollison co-developed with David Holmgren, and which they together envisioned as a perennial and sustainable form of agriculture In 1974, Mollison began his collaboration with Holmgren, and in 1978 they published their book Permaculture One, which introduced this design system to the general public Mollison founded The Permaculture Institute in Tasmania, and created the education system to train others under the umbrella of permaculture This education system of "train the trainer", utilized through a formal Permaculture Design Course and Certification PDC, has taught thousands of people throughout the world how to grow food and be sustainable using permaculture design principles In 1981 he was awarded with the Right Livelihood Award also known as "Alternative Nobelprize" for his accomplishments in the field of permaculture


  • 1 Life and work
    • 11 Biography
    • 12 Career
    • 13 Development of permaculture
  • 2 Selected bibliography
  • 3 See also
  • 4 Notes
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links
    • 61 Interviews
    • 62 Video interviews/features

Life and work


Bruce Charles "Bill" Mollison was born in 1928, in the Bass Strait fishing village of Stanley located on the north-west part of Tasmania, Australia Mollison moved from Tasmania to Tyalgum in the Tweed Valley of northern New South Wales in 1987 where he lived for the next decade before returning to Tasmania He spent his final years in Sisters Beach in north-west Tasmania He died in Hobart, Tasmania, in 2016, aged 88 He is survived by his fifth wife Lisa, four daughters, and two sons


Mollison left school at age 15 to help run the family bakery In the following ten years he worked as a shark fisherman, seaman, forester, mill worker, trapper, snarer, tractor-driver and naturalist

In 1954, at the age of 26, Mollison joined and worked for the 'Wildlife Survey Section' of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation CSIRO In the 1960s, Mollison went on to work at the Tasmanian Museum where he was a curator He also worked with the Inland Fisheries Commission, where he was able to resume his field work once again In 1966, he entered the University of Tasmania After he received his degree in bio-geography, he stayed on to lecture and teach, and developed the unit of Environmental Psychology He retired from teaching in 1979 and devoted the final 30 years of his life to travelling around Australia teaching, lecturing and writing, training others in permaculture design principles

Development of permaculture

Mollison's work with the CSIRO laid the foundation for his life-long passion: Permaculture Mollison told his student Toby Hemenway that the original idea for permaculture came to him in 1959 while he was observing marsupials browsing in the Tasmanian rain forests, because he was "inspired and awed by the life-giving abundance and rich interconnectedness of this eco-system" At that moment, Mollison jotted down the following words in his diary: "I believe that we could build systems that would function as well as this one does" By the late 1960s, he started developing ideas about stable agricultural systems on the southern Australian island state of Tasmania This resulted from his own personal observations of the growth and use of the industrial-agricultural methods that he believed had rapidly degraded the soil of his native state In his view, these same methods posed a danger because they were highly dependent on non-renewable resources, and were additionally poisoning land and water, reducing biodiversity, and removing billions of tons of topsoil from previously fertile landscapes Writes Mollison:

After many years as a scientist with the CSIRO Wildlife Survey Section and with the Tasmanian Inland Fisheries Department, I began to protest against the political and industrial systems I saw were killing us and the world around us But I soon decided that it was no good persisting with opposition that in the end achieved nothing I withdrew from society for two years; I did not want to oppose anything ever again and waste time I wanted to come back only with something very positive, something that would allow us all to exist without the wholesale collapse of biological systems

In 1974, he and his University of Tasmania student David Holmgren "jointly evolved a framework for a sustainable agricultural system based on a multi-crop of perennial trees, shrubs, herbs vegetables and weeds, fungi, and root systems" for which they coined the word "permaculture"

Soon after permaculture was first introduced and then put into practice by the public, Mollison recognized that permaculture principles encompassed a movement that included not only agriculture, horticulture, architecture, and ecology, but also economic systems, land access strategies, and legal systems for businesses and communities:

As I saw permaculture in the 1970s, it was a beneficial assembly of plants and animals in relation to human settlements, mostly aimed towards household and community self-reliance, and perhaps as a "commercial endeavor" only arising from a surplus from that system However, permaculture has come to mean more than just food-sufficiency in the household Self-reliance in food is meaningless unless people have access to land, information, and financial resources So in recent years it has come to encompass appropriate legal and financial strategies, including strategies for land access, business structures, and regional self-financing This way it is a whole human system

He helped found the first Permaculture Institute, established in 1979 to "teach the practical design of sustainable soil, water, plant, and legal and economic systems to students worldwide" In 1981, the first graduates of the permaculture design course PDC that he had helped to initiate, started to design permaculture systems in their respective communities In this way, the philosophy of permaculture had begun to move beyond its original context in "land management" to cover most, if not all, aspects of human life

In 1987, Mollison taught the first PDC course that was offered in India By 2011 there had been over 300,000 such graduates practicing and teaching throughout the world

Selected bibliography

  • Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements, with David Holmgren Melbourne, Australia: Transworld Publishers, 1978 ISBN 978-0-938240-00-6
  • Permaculture Two: Practical Design for Town and Country in Permanent Agriculture Tasmania, Australia: Tagari Publications, 1979 ISBN 9780908228003
  • Permaculture – A Designer's Manual 1988 ISBN 978-0-908228-01-0: has been used extensively as the text book and curriculum for the 72-hour Certificate course in Permaculture Design
  • Introduction to Permaculture, with Reny Mia Slay Tasmania, Australia: Tagari Publications, 1991; revised 1997; 2nd ed 2011 ISBN 978-0-908228-08-9: in this book recognized that his original idea for permaculture had evolved, and a movement had grown, that could "spread to cover all human habitats; and the word was redefined as not just permanent agriculture, but also permanent culture"
  • The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition 1993, Revised 2011 ISBN 978-0-908228-06-5
  • Travels in Dreams: An Autobiography 1996 ISBN 978-0-908228-11-9


  • Mollison, Bill 15–21 September 1978 "The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka – book review" Nation Review p 18 

See also

  • Peter Andrews
  • David Holmgren
  • Albert Bates
  • Masanobu Fukuoka
  • Sepp Holzer
  • Albert Howard
  • Brad Lancaster
  • Geoff Lawton
  • G Nammalvar
  • P A Yeomans


  1. ^ Although Joseph Russell Smith is not similarly referred to as the "father" of permaculture, some have offered the disclaimer that Smith, and not Mollison/Holmgren, was the first to write about a system of permanent agriculture in a book entitled Tree Crops, published in 1929, and earlier in 1910, in a book entitled Breeding and Use of Tree Crops Others would argue, however, that such a disclaimer is based on a common misunderstanding of permaculture as a specific style of agriculture or gardening, rather than an ecologically-inspired design system A food forest certainly can be one outcome of a permaculture design process, but so can an organic backyard garden From the Wikipedia article on permaculture: "a system of agricultural and social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems"
  2. ^ Ie, many of the more prominent teachers are listed in the "See also" section of this article, but includes many others without Wikipedia articles such as April Sampson-Kelly who created the first on-line system called, Permaculturevisions Online Institute in 1993, via permaculturevisionscom


  1. ^ a b Mercury staff-writer 26 September 2016 "Bill Mollison, co-founder of global permaculture movement, dies in Hobart" The Mercury Retrieved 29 September 2016 
  2. ^ "The Companion to Tasmanian History" University of Tasmania, Australia; Library Retrieved 1 January 2013 
  3. ^ a b Tortorello, Michael 27 July 2011 "The Permaculture Movement Grows From Underground" The New York Times 
  4. ^ a b c Francis, Robyn 30 September 2016 "Bill Mollison – a giant tree has fallen in the forest of humanity" Permaculture College of Australia - Djangbung Gardens 
  5. ^ Felix, Luis 26 September 2016 "Permaculture-design leader Bill Mollison dies" Echo Netdaily Retrieved 29 September 2016 
  6. ^ a b O'Connor, Ted 26 September 2016 "'You started a quiet revolution': Tributes flow for permaculture 'father' Bill Mollison" Australian Broadcasting Corporation 
  7. ^ ""With deep sorrow, we wish to inform family and friends that Bruce Charles "Bill" Mollison, the "Father of Permaculture," has passed away"" The Permaculture Research Institute 25 September 2016 Retrieved 30 September 2016 
  8. ^ Dunwell, Matt 10 October 2016 "Bill Mollison obituary: Ecologist and one of the co-creators of permaculture" The Guardian Guardian News & Media Ltd Retrieved 12 October 2016 
  9. ^ a b c Bell Graham 26 September 2016 "Bill Mollison Obituary" PDF grahambellorg Retrieved 29 September 2016 
  10. ^ a b c d e Introduction to Permaculture, 2011, Mollison, pv
  11. ^ a b Hemenway, Toby 2009 Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture 2nd ed Chelsea Green Publishing p 5 ISBN 978-1603580298 
  12. ^ a b Raver, Anne 13 February 2013 "Their Trip to Bountiful" The New York Times 
  13. ^ Hodgson, Martin 18 July 2006 "The permaculture club" The Guardian Retrieved 29 September 2016 
  14. ^ "Worldwide Permaculture Projects A growing list of permaculture projects worldwide" Permaculture Research Institute 2016 Retrieved 29 September 2016 
  15. ^ Gilley, Dermot 26 September 2014 "Geoff Lawton presents: Permaculture - A Designers' Manual Podcast" 

External links

Bill Mollison Permaculture Lecture Series, On-Line - over 70 hours of video; two design courses taught by Bill Mollison at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose Texas in 1994 and 1995


  • Seeds of Change interview 2001
  • Plowboy Interview
  • In Context interview
  • Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution – An interview with Bill Mollison by Scott London

Video interviews/features

  • Permaculture: 50-minute Australian-made documentary from 1989 – see also Timestamped study notes for this video
  • In Grave Danger of Falling Food: Another 50-minute Australian-made documentary from 1989
  • The Global Gardener Part 1 The tropics:
  • The Global Gardener Part 2 Dry Lands:
  • The Global Gardener Part 3 Cool Climates: on YouTube
  • The Global Gardener Part 4 Urban Settings: on YouTube
  • Bill Mollison Interviewed by Frank Arogana on YouTube
  • Bill Mollison interviewed June, 2005 in Croatia on YouTube – where he attended the International Permaculture Conference in Motovun, Croatia

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