Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison (1928-2016), the “Father of Permaculture,” has truly left the world a better place than he found it.
As co-founder of the system of Permaculture with David Holmgren , he created a holistic design system that emulates systems that exist in Nature to create sustainable human settlements and food production systems which integrate harmoniously with the natural environment.
In 1978 Bill founded the Permaculture Institute, and developed a formalized system for training Permaculture practitioners. His pioneering work had a broad and far-reaching global influence, directly impacted hundreds of thousands of lives, and indirectly affecting many millions more worldwide in a profound and positive way.
In recognition of his work for his service to humanity, he was honoured with numerous awards, including the Right Livelihood Award in 1981 for his work in environmental design. and the Vavilov Medal. Bill was also the first foreigner invited and admitted to the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
In 1988 Bill published the magnum opus of his written works, ‘The Permaculture Designers Manual’, which Permaculture practitioners universally refer to as the ‘The Bible of Permaculture’.
In his later years he established the ‘Trust in Aid’ fund to assist Permaculture teachers to reach groups in poorer parts of the world, with the goal of training up local teachers to continue the work of teaching Permaculture.
In a deeper sense, through his work and teachings. Bill pioneered a deep respect for the planet and for a more sensible and sustainable way to live on it.
As a person Bill Mollison was a true ‘Renaissance man’, with diverse knowledge, skill and talents in many areas and mastery of his respective fields. Many describe him as a true genius, a title he genuinely earned. To people that met him, he was an academic, a storyteller, an outdoorsman, an adventurer, an irreverent lady’s man and a larrikin at heart.
What was immediately recognisable about Bill was his charismatic personality. His courageous revolutionary spirit and infectious passion touched all those around him. He was truly a peaceful warrior who had no qualms about questioning, challenging and shaking up the stupidity of the status quo. He demonstrated great leadership, leading by example and inspiring others to altruistic goals of making the world a better place.
In my own personal experience, I was lucky to be one of Bill Mollison’s students, and spending two weeks in an intensive PDC course with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton was a truly life-changing experience, I got a lot more than I bargained for! A deep personal change that led to a total career change and shift in life-focus was not something I planned. It was a fortuitous event that led me to a far more meaningful and satisfying life.
Bill Mollison really was ‘bigger than life’ as a person, and that overwhelmed some people, some even claimed he had a huge ego! For those who look past surface appearances, there was a lot more going on. Behind the irreverent public persona that loved to challenge people for the fun of it was a deep, caring, humble man that dedicated his life to caring for the Earth and its people. On graduation, as I walked up to shake Bill’s hand and receive my certificate, I said to him, ‘One day I want to be great, just like you,’ to which Bill gently smiled and replied with disarming humility, ‘I’m just an ordinary bloke.’ Without time to think, I just spoke from the heart and replied, ‘Then I want to be ordinary, just like you.’ He grinned because he knew what I meant, that I genuinely wanted to make a difference. As my teacher, his life has filled me with inspiration to make a real difference and live a life worth living.
A true visionary and pioneer, Bill Mollison dared to dream of changing the world for the better and had the courage to go out there and make it happen. His lasting legacy is an ever-growing world-wide network of permaculture practitioners and teachers, continuing the ecological revolution that he started. Bill Mollison, thank you for your priceless gift to the world.
It is only appropriate to leave Bill to have the last word, as he always did!
“The impetus for the work I do is to leave our children gardens, not deserts.”
– Bill Mollison