Obtain a yield

Yesterday we visited Omah Lor Wellness Center, a permaculture farm, educational facility, and library under construction outside of Yogyakarta.

Bebe and Dwi demonstrated how they were designing gardens, facilities, and businesses using permaculture principles and older ideas that they later found to align with these principles.

On the way back, we talked more about permaculture principles and how Ali’s using them in her research with Ilaria.

I’ve read a little bit about permaculture design, but I’ve mostly learned about it from working with people, and in spaces, that are deeply influenced by permaculture over the last 3 years at the OpenAustralia Foundation, 107 Projects, and Frontyard.

In the car, we talked about the importance of queer and feminist perspectives within permaculture. Ali listed out the 12 principles from the Wikipedia entry for Permaculture.

One of the principles is ‘obtain a yield’. I take this to mean that when you’re trying to make a system more sustainable, you should design it to produce something useful. This will provide incentive to care for and develop the system. It also means that people who don’t have surplus time and energy to contribute (most people) can participate and get something in return.

Ali said I’m a very ‘obtain a yield’ thinker.

We thought it might be a good idea to apply permaculture principles in thinking about the future of Frontyard’s library.

I think ‘obtain a yield’ is a challenge to the Frontyard library. It was the Australia Council’s collection, and they decommissioned it because people weren’t using it (as I understand). There was no yield obtained, so they shut it down.

Now that it’s at Frontyard, what kind of a yield can this collection produce for people?

Currently, the Frontyard library is not being used very much. We haven’t quantified this, but anecdotally, I would say there’s just a small amount of use, a few people a week. Few people know that it exists or is accessible to them.

But there is a lot of goodwill towards the library. People believe that it is a valuable public resource. I’ve seen peoples’ amazement when I tell them the story of how the collection came to Frontyard and that this not-only-artist-run initiative is cataloguing and providing access to it.

Everyone seems to like the idea of a library. They have learned about the world and about themselves by reading books. So books feel like they are full of this potential. A library feels like a very powerful collection of this potential, like a fruit full of seeds.

Around Frontyard I think we also really like the aesthetic of our library.

I came across the idea of imbuing something with ‘surplus animation’, to fill something with knowledge like potential energy, in Ross Gibson’s recent book Basalt. I think tending a library relates to this idea of surplus animation.

I believe the collection can be useful. I’ve personally found it useful in my research for this trip: I came across the Gang re:Publik book, that includes writing from many of the people we’ve been meeting, and many people who have spent time at Frontyard. But I don’t think we are obtaining a yield from the Frontyard library yet.

So this is one of the main things I’m trying to learn from the libraries we’re visiting on this trip. How is it being used by people? What is the yield they are taking?

Here’s some of permaculture co-founder Bill Mollison’s principles, from excerpts of his 1988 book PERMACULTURE: A Designers Manual that I found online:

The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited. The only limit on the number of uses of a resource possible within a system is in the limit of the information and the imagination of the designer.

Definition of System Yield: System yield is the sum total of surplus energy produced by , stored, conserved, reused, or converted by the design. Energy is in surplus once the system itself has available all its needs for growth, reproduction, and maintenance.

The Role of Life in Yield: Living things, including people, are the only effective intervening systems to capture resources on this planet, and to produce a yield. Thus, it is the sum and capacity of life forms which decide total system yield and surplus.

Limits to Yield: Yield is not a fixed sum in any design system. It is the measure of the comprehension, understanding, and ability of the designers and managers of that design.

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