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Bill Mollison (1928-2016)

Black and white portrait of Bill Mollison


#Authors #Educators #Figures in Sustainability #Gardening and Agriculture #Permaculture #Sustainable Communities


Alidia Vane

Bill Mollison (1928–2016) was a pioneering figure in the realm of sustainable agriculture, known primarily for co-developing the concept and theories of permaculture. Born in Tasmania, Australia, Mollison’s later work was shaped by his formative experiences observing nature and studying indigenous communities’ agricultural practices.

In the 1970s, while Mollison was working as a professor at the University of Tasmania, he and Australian environmental designer David Holmgren began to develop the principles of permaculture. Permaculture is a holistic approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that focuses on mimicking flourishing natural ecosystems. Through this approach, permaculture design strategies can improve the diversity, stability, and resilience of human food systems and settlements. Mollison and Holmgren’s discussions led to the publication of their influential book “Permaculture One” in 1978. This book laid the foundation for the permaculture movement by emphasizing the importance of harmonizing human activities with the natural world and by providing a set of strategies for creating food systems that “work with, rather than against nature.”

After the success of this book, Mollison and Holmgren began to publicize their theories. Mollison founded the first Permaculture Institute in Tasmania, wrote “Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual,” and developed and taught the first Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course. Since then it has expanded to a massive “train the trainer”-style educational program, which has instructed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide on how to grow food using sustainable permaculture design principles, even in some of the harshest environments on earth. To view a sample of the PDC curriculum, taught by Mollison himself, check out the “Action” link below.

Throughout his life, Bill Mollison continued to travel the world, teaching permaculture principles to a diverse range of audiences. In 1981, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award “for developing and promoting the theory and practice of permaculture.” Mollison’s legacy lies not only in the concept and teachings of permaculture, but also in his ability to inspire people to work collectively towards a more balanced and regenerative future.

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