m sure if it were you who devised and designed the double-digging method of Olde English-style gardens – as dreaded as it was – you should be suitably remembered for the introduction of a time-honoured garden technique. So too should Australian Bill Mollison. He was designated the ‘king of permaculture’ – an Australian who started a global movement in organic gardening and fused two words into a hybridised phenomenon from ‘permanent and agriculture’, which are now part of any garden- and vegetable-growing lexicon in numerous languages.
He died in his native Tasmania on September 24 at the age of 88.
A life led earlier as an academic and taking a view that all was not as presented and unhappy with that lot, he went about devising ways and means to incorporate soil improvement, chickens at times and the production of organic vegetables without chemicals to produce healthy and sustainable vegetable gardens.
Not to mention a developing understanding of the soil biota that considered microbes, pathogens and other millennia microscopics that keep changing our soils as living organisms.
Using old cardboard and renewing the idea of what is a mulch, chickens to turn the straw while aerating, feeding and improving the soil were principles at the heart of permaculture and its movement. Not a longtime movement, but one with enough momentum to get people interested in goodquality vegetables that was doing something for our environment.
Mollison was often decried as a bit of a hippy, as many of his supporters took on the role of apostles of the method and spread the word as disciples do.
Interestingly, he devised a set of 12 principles that mimicked nature and Her ways. That included us as part of the ethical, sociological, ecological and often economic combinations. This resulted in what could be considered an evolution from the permaculture idea that had its genesis in the late 1960s to the hot new term ‘biophila’, as we understand it today – connecting ourselves in urban living with more nature.
The principles seem to have come full circle as it is these that were first proposed to offset any imbalances from nature, climate and possible disasters – leaving us with a workable system of edibles that would keep us going no matter what happened.
A bit of a doomsday mentality, and not all that bad when considered in context.
Although the worst has yet to happen, the idea that we can grow food, connect with nature and see things in balance for the part we play is a more recently sobering thought.
Maybe Mollison was on the right track. Maybe the idea that we could feed ourselves in a sustainable way using permaculture as a guide isn’t such a bad idea.
Thank you, Mr Mollison. A life well lived and valued.