May the way be easy - and green
WHILE 2016 was a year marked by the passing of some icons in entertainment - David Bowie, Jon English, Alan Rickman and Natalie Cole to name a few - gardening also lost a radical hero.
Bill Mollison, the Tasmanian who co-founded the global permaculture movement, died in September, aged 88. His system advocated agricultural ecosystems that were sustainable and self-sufficient, working with rather than against nature when producing food, and favoured cultvating species suited to local conditions.
Bill founded the Permaculture Institute in 1978, his ideas influencing hundreds of thousands of students worldwide. He was a 'greenie' before we even used the word, and a guerilla gardener who carried nut seeds in his pocket and pressed them into public land where he felt they may grow into something more useful than vast green space.
Many of the philosophies that he wrote about in his book Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, published in 1988, are now seen as the way forward ecologically. "In our gardens, it is our own responsibility to return waters, via compost or mulch, to the soil and plants. Around out homes we can catch water for garden use, but we rely on natural forested landscapes to provide the condenser leaves and clouds to keep rivers running with clean water, to maintain the global atmosphere and to lock up our gaseous pollutants.”
In a world where we are losing whole ecosystems, there are three responses, said Bill. "Care for the surviving natural assemblies to leave the wilderness to heal itself, rehabilitate degraded or eroded land with as many species as we can save.”
Bill left school at the age of 15 and worked various jobs, including as a shark fisherman, seaman, forester and mill worker, as well as an academic at the University of Tasmania, although he had a healthy disrespect for academia.
He was an enormously entertaining raconteur, never afraid to offend anyone with either his stories or his opinions, which ran the width and breadth of Aids, orphans in Africa to eating what he suspected may have been human meat in Russia. I hear he also mixed a mean margarita.
Bill not only won numerous awards for his work, he was the first foreigner invited and admitted to the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
He will be sorely missed but his legacy remains for all gardeners who seek a sustainable lifestyle.
I will leave you with the words of advice he gave me at a teaching university in 2008 ... may the way be easy.
Rest in peace Bill.