Mollison is best known for co-inventing the “Permaculture” concept with David Holmgren. She also received the Right Livelihood Award in 1981. Mollison has helped to develop an integrated body of environmental theory, practice, and philosophy that is widely regarded as Australia’s most innovative and original contribution to the global sustainability problem.
Permaculture: A Brief History
Mollison was born in Stanley, Tasmania. Mollison left school at the age of 15 and worked in a variety of jobs before joining the CSIRO’s Wildlife Survey Section in 1955. Here, he gained research experience and a better understanding of ecological systems.
In 1974, when he was appointed at the University of Tasmania, he met the young and brilliant David Holmgren.
In 1978, Mollison and Holmgren published Permaculture One, a seminal book that sparked the Global Movement.
What is permaculture, and what does it involve?
Permaculture is a complex concept that defies easy definition and understanding. The term was created by combining “permanent agriculture” with “permanent.” Mollison & Holmgren were able to see the damage industrial agriculture caused to topsoil and natural habitats in the 1970s.
The unsustainable nature of these systems was evident. This is backed up by the scientific reports that have been published today, which reveal the alarming impacts industrial agriculture has had on biodiversity as well as climate stability. Two pioneering ecologists wondered what “permanent farming” would look like. Permaculture is the result.
Permaculture, in its broadest sense, is a system of design that aims to work with nature’s laws rather than against them. It is designed to meet human needs efficiently without destroying the ecosystems that we all depend on for our well-being.
Permaculture, or permaculture design, is an attempt to mimic the natural cycles in order to reduce waste, increase resilience, and create a harmonious and just coexistence between humans and other species.
Design Principles have been developed to put these ideas and values into practice. Permaculture is defined by its practical application and experimentation. Participants in the movement must first get their hands dirty and try to live the permaculture lifestyle.
For those who want to explore, learn, and share about permaculture, there are a wide range of books as well as websites like the Permaculture Research Institute.
Permaculture began as a way to produce organic food sustainably. However, it soon expanded into broader challenges for sustainable living.
We face many environmental and social problems today: ecological destruction, climate instability, resource scarcity, and unequal distribution of wealth. The permaculture ethics “Care of People, Care of Planet, and Fair Share” would require radical changes in the way people live together and on our planet.
As well as transitioning away from fossil-fuel-dependent agriculture toward local organic production, permaculture implies the embrace of renewable energy systems, “simple living” lifestyles of modest consumption, as well as retrofitting the suburbs for sustainability and energy efficiency.
The ecovillage and Transition Towns movements recognize their deep debt to permaculture from a grassroots perspective.
Permaculture, from a macroeconomic point of view, implies a slowdown transition toward a steady-state economy that works within the limits of our planet. Permaculture has implications on what alternatives for global development could look like.
In order to answer the question “what is Permaculture? “the simplest way to put it is to say, with others, that “permaculture” is organic gardening disguised as a revolution.
Bill Mollison’s Legacy: A Challenge to Us All
Permaculture has yet to receive the attention it deserves despite its growth into a global movement. Permaculture has its time as the world continues degrading ecosystems due to the design of economic and social systems.
Bill Mollison: Thank you for your inspiration and insights – as well as the challenge that you’ve set us to create a civilization that regenerates, rather than degrades, our only and one planet. Let’s hope humanity will learn from permaculture lessons sooner than later.