On Permaculture and Community

by Bill Mollison

This piece was originally published in Home! A Bioregional Reader, edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant, and Eleanor Wright, New Society Publishers, copyright 1990.

The organic farming movement is part of the new revolution in self-sufficiency in country and town. The global village community is in the throes of its formative years, and should produce, over the next decade, the most remarkable revolution in thought, values, and technology that has yet been evolved.

I see no other solution (political, economic) to global problems than the formation of small responsible communities involved in permaculture and appropriate technology, for both individual and competitive enterprise and “free” energy have failed us. Society is in a mess; obesity in the west is balanced by famine in the third world. Petrol is running out, and yet freeways are still being built. Against such universal insanity the only response is to gather together a few friends and commence to build the alternative, on a philosophy of individual responsibility for community survival.

I believe that the days of centralized power are numbered, and that a re-tribalization of society is an inevitable, if sometimes painful process. The applied theories of politics, economics and industry have made a sick society; it is time for new approaches. We live in the post-industrial world, and have an immense amount of sophisticated information and technology which enables us to exchange information while living in a village situation. Permaculture is a basic technique for such an evolution, and like all biological, wholistic systems, is within the reach of every person.

Permaculture both conserves and generates the fuel energies of transport systems, and would enable any community to exist comfortably on very restricted land areas. Supplemented with the appropriate and available technologies of methane and alcohol fuels, dry distillation processes, and wind, wave, water or solar energies, it would provide the basis of a sustainable and regionalized society. Combined with community cooperation, permaculture promises freedom from many of the ills that plague us, and accepts all the organic wastes of the community it serves.

Thus, a permaculture system integrated with human settlement provides an inexhaustible energy system, fueled by the sun and developed by the community.

In moving towards such a safe society, all we have to fear is fear, for in the end the only security lies within ourselves, the only safety in having friends, good neighbours, and a meaningful society.

Excerpted from Permaculture Two: Practical Design for Town & Country In Permanent Agriculture, Tasmania: Tagari Books, 1979.

Bill Mollison (1928-2016) was a scientist, author, and teacher from Tasmania, Australia, known as the “father of permaculture.” In 1981, he received the Right Livelihood Award for his work developing and promoting the theory and practice of permaculture. He developed the Environmental Psychology program at the University of Tasmania, his alma mater. He also founded the Permaculture Institute, offering a Permaculture Design Course and Certification that is now offered via programs all over the world.

Liked it? Take a second to support Quinn Collard on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!