Preface of my book “Ecological Ignorance in Mainstream Economics”

Ecological Ignorance in Mainstream Economics
Available at Amazon

As I was studying conventional economics at the University of Zurich (2002-2004), I became more and more suspicious of the stuff that we were learning in the name of objective social science. A series of questions began to appear in my mind, such as:

If nature is the primary re-producer, that is, not only a passive raw material resource and a passive dumping ground for waste, why didn’t we learn first of all ecology, which is the economy of nature? After all, the word “economy” (oikos+nomia) shares the same linguistic root with “ecology (oikos+logia). “Oikos” means household in Greek.

I already had a master degree in electrical engineering as I began to study economics. In the department of electrical engineering, we learned first physics (i.e. Newton physics, mechanics, electromagnetics, linear & nonlinear dynamic systems etc.) before learning core theories of electrical engineering like telecommunication because physics was rightfully supposed to be an elementary field for further studies.

How is it possible that an economics student doesn’t need to study ecology and anthropology (i.e. evolutionary human ecology & culture) before learning the core theories of economics?

Imagine a biologist who was not required to learn the modern synthesis of the Darwinian evolutionary theory. Without evolution, you can’t explain anything in biology. Similarly, without ecology, you can’t understand economy in its completeness, especially related with sustainability.

Ecological breakdown, climate crisis, big droughts, big migrations… We are not living in an era of “business as usual”. Consequently, it is no more “business as usual” for the whole education system either; general school and economics education must be redefined; ecological and philosophical literacy must be a top priority.

Furthermore, musical literacy as well as other fine arts must be an integral part of education programs as they enrich the mind and improve the ability for holistic and critical thinking. The ability to see the complete picture in economy, that is, global, complete and long-term view from the historical past to future, has become vital in order to understand the preconditions of sustainable human life on our planet.

Unfortunately, there are still too many prominent environmental economists promoted as “respectable scientists”, who tend to consider GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as the ultimate measure, and GDP growth –which is misleadingly called “economic growth” ignoring the nonmonetary production of nature and society—as the ultimate goal, as if there could be a human economy without human life. As if GDP growth could solve every social and ecological problem of a society. On the contrary; GDP growth obsession and addiction were in fact the cause of many social and environmental disasters in many countries of the world, along with increasing poverty and malnutrition.

My PhD work, which is the core body this book, was an inquiry into the historical roots and causes of this ecological ignorance in mainstream (neoclassical, neoliberal) economics. Understanding these roots & causes is important to surmount the mental and institutional barriers to ecological thinking that is required to initiate the radical social transformation for sustainable and equitable human life on the planet.

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An Anatolian tale: Wild Drummer of the Apple Village

In May 2021, as I was thinking “what shall I do for the 12th birthday of my daughter Elif Sumru, what shall I give to her as present?”, an idea came to my mind: I could write a short story whose heroin is a young girl like Elif Sumru. So I sat down and wrote this fairy-tale-like story in three days (originally in Turkish, titled “Elmalı Köyün Vahşi Davulcusu”). I wrote it in only three days but all the details of this short story has been on my mind for quite a long time.

Turkish original: Bir Anadolu masalı: Elmalı Köyün Vahşi Davulcusu

Picture by Elif Sumru Kütükçüoǧlu (my daughter), for chapter 5

Latest events in the normally quiet Apple Village have confused 12-year-old Elint, who was called “Curly Nettle” in the village because of her curly hair and sharp tongue:

What was the Wild Drummer, a forest boy, trying to tell the people of the village with these words?

You’re all obsessed with apple and only apple,
You don’t see the other blessings of the forest.

Most of the village people, including Curly’s father and the village teacher named Meticulous, were against the Wild Drummer. They thought, this wild jungle boy should not to be allowed into the village. Who was right and who was wrong? Should she follow the majority, or should she try the understand and defend the Wild Drummer?

Did the Teacher really teach everything that needed to be learned, as his father said, or was there much to learn from Doctor Oma and Taleteller Opa, from others, and from the forest?

What should be done with the giant of a boy Stone-Head, who couldn’t bring two sensible words together and broke his school desk with a punch of his fist when he got angry? Was the Teacher right in wanting to expel him from school for good, or did the Stone-Head, who couldn’t express his feelings verbally, had a golden conscience that had to be understood?

Curly was terribly confused. Would she be able to make sound judgments and find the right path?

***

In this story, Wild Drummer tries to protect the forest, which he views as his homeland, from the ever-expanding apple plantations. He also rebels against the “monoculture of the mind” (a phrase by Vandana Shiva who has always been one of my prime inspirations).

This is a story for families and children who are not content with just school knowledge, and attach importance to ecological and philosophical consciousness. Read this story and have your children read (or hear) it too. You will see that this short story will be the subject of much discussion.

The book will be available for sale, first in three languages (Turkish, English, German) as soon as my daughter Elif Sumru has completed its pictures –a picture for each chapter– probably until February 2023.

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The man who never asked inconvenient questions

The case of Adolf Eichmann and industrial education

Adolf Eichmann, an ideal tamed technician for the industry, who was technically competent in his job, and more importantly, who never asked inconvenient questions about the system, purpose and meaning

I can say without hesitation that A Little History of Philosophy is the best introductory philosophy book I’ve ever read.

The author of the book, Nigel Warburton, has managed to explain the most important ideas of the history of philosophy in an enjoyable and immersive way, without using an esoteric jargon that is hardly understandable for a lay reader.

35th chapter of the book describes a case that I find very striking to highlight the industrial mindset: The man who does not ask questions!

Adolf Eichmann was a high-ranking bureaucrat in charge of European railways during the Hitler era.

Due to Eichmann’s meticulous work and oversight, all train routes in Europe at that time worked like a clockwork, so that hundreds of thousands of Jews and other “lower races” collected from all over Europe could be transported to concentration camps in Eastern Europe without serious technical problems.

You know the rest of the story: Most of the prisoners, including many women and children, who were brought to the concentration camps in crowded cattle wagons were murdered with poison gas in special shower rooms. Some of these prisoners were used as guinea pigs in most perverse medical experiments. Only a very small minority of the captives could survive these hideous concentration camps. These few survivors were in an extremely miserable condition when they were finally rescued at the end of the Second World War.

Eichmann, who, like many post-war Nazis, fled to Argentina after the war, was captured by the Israeli secret police Mossad in Buenos Aires in 1960, and brought to Israel to stand trial.

The philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-75) dealed personally with the Eichmann case. What kind of a maniac, pervert and sadistic person should he be to have brought hundreds of thousands of people to torture and death without blinking an eye?

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Important economy lesson that I learned from aquariums

As experienced aquarium-keepers know very well, the biggest problem in an aquarium is water purification; that is, keeping the water and sand healthy in the long term, for several years.

biotope in my study

Nitrogen compounds such as nitrate and other chemicals accumulated in the water can make the aquarium uninhabitable for fish, plants, invertebrates and other creatures over time.

After all, you give fish food to the aquarium every day. If this food cannot be recycled or cleaned in some way, the chemical substances contained in the food will be transformed and accumulated in the aquarium water or sand.

I have spent years with all kinds of water filters in order to have sustainable and healthy aquariums; mechanical filters, biological filters, chemical filters, ion exchangers and so on, whatever technology came to my mind!

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The Song of Ecological Ignorance

Have you ever listened to the song of ecological ignorance?

Probably not, because I composed such a song for the first time. Here it is:

I played the song of “Ecological Ignorance in Mainstream Economics” on the ukulele

This is a little funny & simple song of ecological ignorance, and it is at the same time the song of my book Ecological Ignorance in Mainstream Economics which is now available at amazon as e-book and and paperback.

The song is my own little composition based on a simple chord sequence:
C – Am – C – Am – G – F – G – C

Words (lyrics) and chords for ukulele:
Ecolo, ecological ignorance, ignorance
Ecolo, ecological ignorance, in mainstream, economics
How terrible it is, really sad

Download words and chords of the song as pdf file.

Are you a musician? It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, amateur or professional; you can play this song with your own interpretation, and publish it wherever you want (youtube, soundcloud, audiomack etc.). If you liked the message of this song, you can spread it by playing and singing. As the composer of this little song I have only two conditions:

(1) Add (copy & paste) following lines into the detail information of your video or audio:

Music and lyrics by Tunç Ali Kütükçüoǧlu
Information about the song: http://tuncalik.com/the-song-of-ecological-ignorance

(2) Send me an email with the link of your song. I will add your name and link to the list of interpreters below (my email: tuncalik1968 at gmail dot com)

List of interpreters

  1. Tunç Ali Kütükçüoǧlu, ukulele student, recording date: 9.12.2021
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