Bill Mollison – 1928-2016
This week we received the sad news the renowned biologist, biogeographer and Permaculture co-originator, Bill Mollison, had passed away in Hobart, in his native state of Tasmania. Bill had been unwell for some time and was lovingly cared for by his family up until his passing.
Few modern humans understood the functions and patterns of the ecologies of our world as well as Bill did. Though foibled like all of us, he displayed a towering intellect at the same time as the touch and humility of a common person. A great story teller, he was the master of the segue and had an incredible passion for the living systems of planet earth, whilst being contemptuous of many of the professions, especially those complicit in the demise of once thriving ecologies.
We remember Bill for his generosity of spirit, support, fellowship and friendship of years ago. We also remember all of his great stories and playful banter with our children and ourselves.
We first met Bill when Darren did his 2nd PDC at Bill’s Tyalgum (NSW) farm in 1995 with 75 others — Darren was also awarded his Diploma of Permaculture Design by Bill that year. Darren followed this up with a weeklong Earthworks practicum at the same farm in 1996 with Bill and Doug Dorrough. Bill was single at the time and the handful of attendees had full access to Bill day and night — together, we all did Earthworks all day and ’til the very early hours Bill indefatigably held stage telling story after story, all whilst smoking cigarettes continuously and co-cooking great food with all of us, with his mate and nurseryman Paul ‘Speedy’ Ward.
In 1999 Bill called us on the phone one day and said, “…Darren it’s about time you started to teach...”.
With that we organised to teach 2 PDC’s with Bill and Janet Millington in northern Tasmania. We’ve been involved with well over 200 trainings ever since, including 42 PDC’s. For that, we have to thank Bill for his instigation and early support.
At the first PDC at Rocky Cape (TAS 2001), Bill was visited by Howard Yana Shapiro Ph.D, and introduced us. Howard was the Director of Plant Science and External Research for Mars Inc. and co-founder of Seeds of Change (USA), which Mars Inc. had recently purchased. He was visiting Bill to get his counsel on an upcoming project in Viet Nam — Darren did some design work for Bill during this time to assist with that job — and then from 2004 – 2007, we lived and worked on this same project with Dr. Yana Shapiro in Viet Nam — and have Bill to thank for that introduction.
At the 2nd Rocky Cape PDC (TAS 2001) we turned up and Bill was at his back doorstep with his suitcase by his side. He was off to Viet Nam to work on this Mars Inc. consult and would be back for the 2nd week of the PDC. Imagine our angst at the thought that 30 people had come from all over the world expecting the great man the following day, only to find the relatively unknown Darren on his 2nd PDC as a trainer — thank goodness the vastly experienced Janet Millington was there! Bill returned the next week and all went well — it did show us some of Bill’s style in having faith in people and throwing them into the deep end though — luckily he knew full well that we could swim!
Bill and Darren talked a lot about work and project processes and following this Bill asked Darren if he could write a book on ‘Permaculture Processes’ that his publishing house would publish. Bill wrote an outline, but it never eventuated. This conversation between Bill and Darren did however create the spark for the ‘Regrarians Handbook‘ – which Darren and Bill’s old friend, colleague and founding Permaculture Institute Director, Andrew Jeeves are currently working on (Andrew did the layout, design and illustration of ‘Permaculture: A Designers Manual‘ & ‘Permaculture Two‘ — along with travelling with Bill on his first international tours & co-teaching the first ever PDC’s).
In the years after those 2 PDC’s our contact with Bill was intermittent, though he did stay with us at our family home in the mid 2000’s for a couple of days, and made a couple of Kim Chi’s. He and Lisa (Heenan) went into town to the buy some ingredients for the Kim Chi. He immediately asked her to, “go down the naughty aisle” where he could indulge in some sweets — especially licorice. Bill was a great cook and knew how to cook pretty well everything that existed. This Kim Chi was very easy for him. He did need some smooth stones to place on top of the ingredients — he remembered that our neighbour had a stone mulched front yard and so sent me off to steal a couple of their xeriscape rocks — lovely smooth river quartz — all details that his gaze sequestered in the huge repository that was his mind.
We last saw Bill at the Australian Permaculture Convergence in tropical northern Queensland in 2010. It was clear that his health was failing — we tried to see him a couple of years back when we were in northern Tasmania but he was too unwell at the time.
We give thanks to Bill for all that he gave to us in support and friendship, to his family for their great support of him in his final years, and to his enduring love and work for this planet and all of it’s species…
Requiescat in pace, Bill.
PS. Bill’s daughter Frances Mollison sent us a note with the following wish which many people around the world have gone on to complete — we ask you do the same,
“…He wanted everyone to plant a tree when he passed…”