[permaculture] Report from Melbourne PDC course with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton

andrew phillips greenman124 at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 9 19:04:54 EDT 2005

Andrew Leslie Phillips attended the PDC course in
Melbourne in September 2005, taught by permaculture
founder and legend Bill Mollison, and the renowned
permaculture practitioner and teacher Geoff Lawton. At
the conclusion of the course, Andrew filed this

Phillips is founder of the Hancock Permaculture Center
and convener of an upcoming PDC course in High Falls
New York to be taught by Geoff Lawton and Andrew
Jones. Go to www.hancockpermaculture.org for info


Following devastating hurricanes and crippling
increases in fossil fuel prices, it seems the world is
finally waking to the impending ecological crisis.
There is no doubt world climate is rapidly changing,
and following Hurricane Katrina and Rita even George
Bush believes it. Never before have the ideals and
applications of permaculture been more relevant. 

This was the overriding message of Bill Mollison and
Geoff Lawton at the PDC course at Melbourne University
as news of rapid climate change and devastating
weather patterns continued to fill the news. 

Sixty students attended this historic course and there
was a sense of urgency as we met in the final days.
The question many of us were asking was how do we
accelerate and spread the good news about permaculture
more effectively. 

Permaculture has been around for about thirty years
and between them, Bill and Geoff have taught the
subject in well over 100 countries. Many thousands of
students now practice permaculture, which may well be
the largest aid provider in the world, although few
people even know it exists. It has no formal
affiliation and tends to work on the fringes of
society far from the media spotlight. 

As the course wound up there were discussions about
improving marketing, publicity, and outreach efforts,
and Bill and Geoff encouraged students to take
permaculture to a much larger audience. 

The full 72 hours were documented by a three-camera
professional video crew. Lisa Mollison is coordinating
a DVD project and we’re looking to mainstream media
outlets to spread the word. 

Permaculture can work on any scale within natural
systems but we need intelligent political structures
to aid us in implementation. The current American
model is a disaster and there is no reason to think
it’s capable of avoiding the inevitable catastrophe we

The least we can do is arm ourselves with knowledge
and take appropriate actions to save what is left of
our little piece of the planet for future generations
in our own bio-regions. We cannot stand in the way of
the beast and expect to survive. We first have to
create a safe and sustainable place for ourselves and
hope that by example others will gradually adapt,
learn and change. 

Teaching is crucial and Bill and Geoff encouraged the
class to take on the teacher's mantle. Permaculture is
a brilliant design system and we need to spread the
word as we integrate it into our own lives. 

The world can no longer sustain the damage caused by
modern agriculture. We have already lost two-thirds of
our topsoil, blown and washed away. Between 200 and
400 tons of top soil per acre per year are lost
because of modern agricultural practices— mechanized
farming and mono culture of the five remaining major
world crops: wheat, rice, corn, soy and potatoes.
Agricultural diversity is shrinking. 

As an example, lawns are the largest "crop" system in
the United States, using more energy than corn and
vegetable production, while the yield (cut grass)
creates a massive public disposal problem. Cut grass
is saturated with petrochemicals. Millions of gallons
of gasoline are used cutting grass, and lawns use up
one-quarter of the country’s annual fertilizer
production, equal to the amount used by India and
China combined. 

Lawns create a negative energy flow and they waste
enormous amounts of water. The petrochemicals we use
to make lawns lush and green run off and eventually
pollute the water table in the same way large-scale
food production and its use of chemicals ultimately
poisons the landscape. As we enter this new millennium
we find global food production in decline. 

Simply teaching the destructive power of the innocuous
lawn helps people understand how off track we are. 

More information about the permaculture mailing list