Bill Mollison Quotes

Born May 04, 1928
Died September 24, 2016

Who the Heck is Bill Mollison?

Bruce Charles "Bill" Mollison was an Australian researcher, author, scientist, teacher and biologist. In 1981, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award "for developing and promoting the theory and practice of permaculture".

Permaculture is an integrated system of ecological and environmental design which Mollison co-developed with David Holmgren, and which they together envisioned as a perennial and sustainable form of agriculture.

Bill Mollison is often referred to as the Godfather of permaculture.

Books by Bill Mollison

Best Quotes by Bill Mollison

“Should we tamper with nature?" is no longer a question - we've tampered with nature on the whole face of the Earth.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“A great many film stars perched on unstable ravine edges in the canyon systems of Los Angeles will, like the cemeteries there, eventually slide down to join their unfortunate fellows in the canyon floors, with mud, cars, and embalmed or living film stars in one glorious muddy mass. We should not lend our talents to creating such spectacular catastrophes.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“A house should look after itself - as the weather heats up the house cools down, as the weather cools down the house heats up. It's simple stuff, you know? We've known how to do it for a long time.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“A really failing society has a lot of rules or laws.”

Bill Mollison

“Allow the system to demonstrate its own evolution.”

Bill Mollison

“Anarchy would suggest you're not cooperating. Permaculture is urging complete cooperation between each other and every other thing, animate and inanimate.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Another thing I find extremely eerie is that when people build a house, they almost exactly get it wrong. They don't just get it partly wrong, they get it dead wrong.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Anyone who ever studied mankind by listening to them was self-deluded. The first thing they should have done was to answer the question, "Can they report to you correctly on their behavior?" And the answer is, "No, the poor bastards cannot.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Anything that's any good is self-perpetuating.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Anything that's left that's remotely like wilderness should be left strictly alone. We have no business there any more. It's not going to save you to go in and cut the last old-stand forests.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“At least half of every city is wrong. From latitude 30 degrees to latitude 60, say, you've got to have the long axis of the house facing the sun. If the land is cut up into squares, that makes half of all houses wrong if they face the road. Even houses way in the country, and way off the road, face the bloody road. And from there, you just go wronger all the way.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Choose your friends from people who you like what they do - even though you mightn't like what they say.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Compressed air can provide limitless amounts of clean energy using technology we have had for hundreds of years.”

Bill Mollison

“Don’t worry about being able to identify each of these plants in your designs for clients. The world is full of botanists and horticulturists. All you have to do is design. You don’t have to be a botanist; you don’t have to be a bulldozer driver; you don’t have to be a fence builder; you don’t have to be an architect. What the designer has to do is look at the relationships.”

Bill Mollison

“Few people today muck around in earth, and when on international flights, I often find I have the only decently dirty fingernails.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“Humans were my study animal now - I set up night watches on them, and I made phonograms of the noises they make. I studied their cries, and their contact calls, and their alarm signals. I never listened to what they were saying - I watched what they were doing, which is really the exact opposite of the Freuds and Jungs and Adlers.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I believe humanity is a pretty interesting lot, and they're all really busy doing and thinking interesting things.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I can easily teach people to be gardeners, and from them, once they know how to garden, you'll get a philosopher.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I confess to a rare problem - gynekinetophobia, or the fear of women falling on me - but this is a rather mild illness compared with many affluent suburbanites, who have developed an almost total zoophobia, or fear of anything that moves. It is, as any traveller can confirm, a complaint best developed in the affluent North American, and it seems to be part of blue toilet dyes, air fresheners, lots of paper tissues, and two showers a day.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“I could never teach people to be philosophers - and if I did, you could never make a gardener out of them.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I gave one permaculture course in Botswana, and now my students are out in the bloody desert in Namibia teaching Bushmen - whose language nobody can speak - to be very good permaculture people.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I guess I would know more about permaculture than most people, and I can't define it. It's multi-dimensional - chaos theory was inevitably involved in it from the beginning.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I probably lead a very spoiled life, because I travel from people interested in permaculture to people interested in permaculture. Some of them are tribal, and some of them are urban, and so on.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I teach self-reliance, the world's most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So, yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution

“I think Americans are so poor it's pitiful, because they don't understand the natural world at all.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I think it's pointless asking questions like "Will humanity survive?" It's purely up to people - if they want to, they can, if they don't want to, they won't.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I think mine is a very rich life.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I think the world would function extremely well with millions of little cooperative groups, all in relation to each other.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I think we probably have a racial death wish. We don't understand anything about where we live, and we don't want to.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I'd come into town from the bush - after 28 years of field work in natural systems - and become an academic. So I turned my attention to humans, much as I had to possums in the forests.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“I'm certain I don't know what permaculture is. That's what I like about it - it's not dogmatic. But you've got to say it's about the only organized system of design that ever was. And that makes it extremely eerie.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“If and when the whole world is secure, we have won a right to explore space, and the oceans. Until we have demonstrated that we can establish a productive and secure earth society, we do not belong anywhere else, nor (I suspect) would we be welcome elsewhere.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“If people want some guidance, I say, just look at what people really do. Don't listen to them that much.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“If we lose the forests, we lose our only teachers.”

Bill Mollison

“If you get someone who looks after himself and those around him, that's a deep ecologist. He can talk philosophy that I understand. People like that don't poison things, they don't ruin things, they don't lose soils, they don't build things they can't sustain.”

Bill Mollison

“If you lend your skills to other systems that you don't really believe in, then you might as well never have lived. You haven't expressed yourself.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“If you let people loose in a landscape and tell them to choose a house site, half of them will go sit on the ridges where they'll die in the next fire, or where you can't get water to them. Or they'll sit in all the dam sites. Or they'll sit in all the places that will perish in the next big wind.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“If you let the world roll on the way it's rolling, you're voting for death. I'm not voting for death.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“If you only do one thing; collect rainwater.”

Bill Mollison

“If you're a simple person today, and want to live simply, that is awfully seditious. And to advise people to live simply is more seditious still.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“If you're dealing with an assembly of biological systems, you can bring the things together, but you can't connect them.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Instead of physicists teaching physics, physicists should go home and see what physics applies to their home.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“It’s a revolution. But it’s the sort of revolution that no one will notice. It might get a little shadier. Buildings might function better. You might have less money to earn because your food is all around you and you don’t have any energy costs. Giant amounts of money might be freed up in society so that we can provide for ourselves better. So it’s a revolution. But permaculture is anti-political. There is no room for politicians or administrators or priests. And there are no laws either. The only ethics we obey are: care of the earth, care of people, and reinvestment in those ends.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution

“Life is also busy transporting and overturning the soils of earth, the stones, and the minerals. The miles-long drifts of sea kelp that float along our coasts may carry hundreds of tons of volcanic boulders held in their roots. I have followed these streams of life over 300 km, and seen them strand on granite beaches, throwing their boulders up on a 9,000 year old pile of basalt, all the hundreds of tons of which were carried there by kelp.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“Most modern homes are simply uninhabitable without electricity - you couldn't flush the toilet without it. It's a huge dependency situation.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“My students are constantly amazing me.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Once you've said to yourself, "But I'm not using my physics in my house," or "I'm not using my ecology in my garden, I've never applied it to what I do," it's like something physical moves inside your brain. Suddenly you say, "If I did apply what I know to how I live, that would be miraculous!" Then the whole thing unrolls like one great carpet. Undo one knot, and the whole thing just rolls downhill.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“One of the great rules of design is do something basic right. Then everything gets much more right of itself. But if you do something basic wrong - if you make what I call a Type 1 Error - you can get nothing else right.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Permaculture challenges what we're doing and thinking - and to that extent it's sedition.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Permaculture creates a cultivated ecology, which is designed to produce more human and animal food than is generally found in nature.”

Bill Mollison

“Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments. Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants and animals combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures to produce a life supporting system for city and country, using the smallest practical area.”

Bill Mollison

“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture Two

“Permaculture is an integrated, evolving system of perennial and self-perpetuating plants and animal species useful to man.”

Bill Mollison

“Permaculture is something with a million heads. It's a way of thinking which is already loose, and you can't put a way of thinking back in the box.”

Bill Mollison

“Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order.”

Bill Mollison

“Permaculture offers a radical approach to food production and urban renewal, water, energy and pollution. It integrates ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture and agro-forestry in creating a rich and sustainable way of living. It uses appropriate technology giving high yields for low energy inputs, achieving a resource of great diversity and stability. The design principles are equally applicable to both urban and rural dwellers.”

Bill Mollison

“Permaculture principles focus on thoughtful designs for small-scale intensive systems which are labor efficient and which use biological resources instead of fossil fuels. Designs stress ecological connections and closed energy and material loops. The core of permaculture is design and the working relationships and connections between all things.”

Bill Mollison

“Pollution is an unused resource.”

Bill Mollison

“Say you're working for a big overseas aid organization. You can't leave home in a Mercedes Benz, travel 80 kilometers to work in a great concrete structure where there are diesel engines thundering in the basement just to keep it cool enough for you to work in, and plan mud huts for Africa! You can't get the mud huts right if you haven't got things right where you are. You've got to get things right, working for you, and then go and say what that is.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Security can be found in renunciation of ownership over people, money, and real assets; to gain, keep or protect that which others need for periods of legitimate access. A lending library enables people to help themselves to information; a locked-up book collection is useful only to the person who owns it.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos.”

Bill Mollison

“Stupidity is an attempt to iron out all differences, and not to use them or value them creatively.”

Bill Mollison

“That we don't design agriculture to be sustainable is totally eerie. We design it to be a disaster, and of course, we get a disaster.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“The agriculture taught at colleges between 1930 and 1980 has caused more damage on the face of the Earth than any other factor.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“The American lawn uses more resources than any other agricultural industry in the world. It uses more phosphates than India and puts on more poisons than any other form of agriculture.”

Bill Mollison

“The end result of the adoption of permaculture strategies in any country or region will be to dramatically reduce the area of the agricultural environment needed by the households and the settlements of people, and to release much of the landscape for the sole use of wildlife and for re-occupation by endemic flora.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“The extinction rate is so huge now, we're to the stage where we've got to set up recombinant ecologies. There are no longer enough species left, anywhere, to hold the system together.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“The first time I saw a review of one of my permaculture books was three years after I first started writing on it. The review started with, "Permaculture Two is a seditious book." And I said, "At last someone understands what permaculture's about.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”

Bill Mollison
An Introduction to Permaculture

“The important thing is not to do any agriculture whatsoever, and particularly to make the modern agricultural sciences a forbidden area - they're worse than witchcraft, really.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.”

Bill Mollison

“The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves.”

Bill Mollison

“The value of land must, in the future, be assessed on its yield of potable water. Those property-owners with a constant source of pure water already have an economically-valuable "product" from their land, and need look no further for a source of income.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“The worst thing about permaculture is that it's extremely successful, but it has no center, and no hierarchy.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“There are only four things in all cleaners - whether it's shampoo, laundry detergent, whatever.You buy them in bulk and you mix them up properly, and they all work. It doesn't matter if they call the stuff ecologically friendly or have dolphins diving around on the label - it still has these damn four things in it. Anything else is just unnecessary additions to make it smell good or color it blue when it goes down the toilet.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“There is no more time-wasting process than that of believing people will act, and then finding that they will not.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“There is one, and only one solution, and we have almost no time to try it. We must turn all our resources to repairing the natural world, and train all our young people to help. They want to; we need to give them this last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions, and to know how to do it from hands-on experience.”

Bill Mollison

“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”

Bill Mollison

“To accumulate wealth, power or land beyond one's needs in a limited world is to be truly immoral, be it as an individual, an institution, or a nation-state.”

Bill Mollison

“To create a mess in which we perish by our own inaction makes nonsense of our claim to consciousness and morality”

Bill Mollison

“Too often, the pastoralist blames the weeds and seeks a chemical rather than a management solution; too seldom do we find an approach combining the sensible utilisation of grasshoppers and grubs as a valuable dried-protein supplement for fish or food pellets, and a combination of soil conditioning, slashing, and de-stocking or re-seeding to restore species balance.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“Trees are responsible for 3/4 of all rains.”

Bill Mollison

“Type 1 Error: When we settle into wilderness, we are in conflict with so many life forms that we have to destroy them to exist. Keep out of the bush. It is already in good order.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“Use all the skills you have in relation to others - and that way we can do anything.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“We are sufficient to do everything possible to heal this Earth.”

Bill Mollison

“We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities.”

Bill Mollison

“We don't have any power of creation - we have only the power of assembly. So you just stand there and watch things connect to each other, in some amazement actually. You start by doing something right, and you watch it get more right than you thought possible.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“We don't have to suppose we need oil, or governments, or anything.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“We have to let nature put what's left together, and see what it can come up with to save our ass.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“We have to rethink how we're going to live on this earth - stop talking about the fact that we've got to have agriculture, we've got to have exports, because all that is the death of us.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“We ourselves are part of a guild of species that lie within and without our bodies. Aboriginal peoples and the Ayurvedic practitioners of ancient India have names for such guilds, or beings made up (as we are) of two or more species forming one organism. Most of nature is composed of groups of species working interdependently.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“We're only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby.”

Bill Mollison

“Wealth is a deep understanding of the natural world.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“What is proposed herein is that we have no right, nor any ethical justification, for clearing land or using wilderness while we tread over lawns, create erosion, and use land inefficiently. Our responsibility is to put our house in order. Should we do so, there will never be any need to destroy wilderness.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“When the idea of permaculture came to me, it was like a shift in the brain, and suddenly I couldn't write it down fast enough.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“When you get deep ecologists who are philosophers, and they drive cars and take newspapers and don't grow their own vegetables, in fact they're not deep ecologists - they're my enemies.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Why is it that we don't build human settlements that will feed themselves, and fuel themselves, and catch their own water, when any human settlement could do that easily? When it's a trivial thing to do?”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“Women are the holders of all knowledge, everything a man knows he stole from a woman.”

Bill Mollison

“Women spend the money of society on its goods.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“You can hit a nail on the head, or cause a machine to do so, and get a fairly predictable result. Hit a dog on the head, and it will either dodge, bite back, or die, but it will never again react in the same way. We can predict only those things we set up to be predictable, not what we encounter in the real world of living and reactive processes.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

“You can't cooperate by knocking something about or bossing it or forcing it to do things.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“You can't live like a Bushman or an Aborigine anymore, so they've got to rethink the whole basis of how they're going to live. Permaculture helps you do that easily.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency.”

Bill Mollison

“You should never have gotten to the stage where you could see the last ancient forests! Just get out of there right now, because the lessons you need to learn are there. That's the last place you'll find those lessons readable.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living

“You won't get cooperation out of a hierarchical system. You get enforced directions from the top, and nothing I know of can run like that.”

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: Design For Living