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M.D. Usher: Sustainability, Ancient Greeks and Farming in Vermont

Yeah, the study of Classics involves that
study of language, first and foremost Greek and Latin language and all that’s tied to
the languages. So that would be literature, history, the
products of culture that come from the Greeks and the Romans, architecture. And for a long time, in my career as a classicist,
I’ve kind of led a double life. My wife and I built and run a farm, a sheep
farm in Shoreham, Vermont and I’ve been doing that parallel to all the things I just descriptive
to you, that a normal card carrying classicist does. This project is kind of a merging of those
two interests in my credentials as a professional classicist and my avocation as a farmer. And it’s about the cultural history of these
two quote unquote modern notions of these two concerns, for sustainability and complex
systems or complexity theory. But the core principles of these two new academic
disciplines are a hallmark of ancient Greek thinking and consequently of Roman thinking
and so I’m tracing that trajectory back, you know, back to the pre-socratics, through Plato
and Aristotle. Hesiod is a major player in this he wrote
an agricultural poem called “Works & Days”, our farm is named after that poem, Works & Days
Farm. And so these notions of sustainability, living
within limits, encouraging limits by means of social pressures or incentives, understanding
one’s place in the world as part of a complex whole and not as some sort of individual separable
entity and I think of Aristotle and repose and I think about what I’m doing, when I’m
doing it so I don’t lose a limb or life or something else when we’re putting up hay or,
you know, doing whatever we’re doing.

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