My Book: Ecological Ignorance in Mainstream Economics

My book “Ecological Ignorance in Mainstream Economics”, which is a product of my PhD study at the University of Corsica (Università di Corsica Pasquale Paoli, 2018-2021), is now available at Amazon as ebook and paperback:

Ecological Ignorance in Mainstream Economics: Why does mainstream economics ignore ecology, especially in the undergraduate education that shapes the minds of young students?

This book is a product of my PhD thesis that was an inquiry into the historical roots & causes of the ecological ignorance in mainstream (neoclassical, neoliberal) economics. Understanding these roots & causes is important to surmount the mental and institutional barriers to holistic and ecological thinking.

This book includes some additional sections like “the tragic story of my excommunication from the Church of Economism” (phrase and article by Prof. Richard Norgaard, one of the 17 contributors of my PhD thesis) that are not included in my PhD thesis. And vice versa; some sections of my PhD thesis are excluded from the book as they are too specific and technical for general interests and not easily readable.

I will update the book regularly for small corrections and improvements in subsequent editions, but the PhD thesis will remain as it is.

This book is for you, if you have questions about political economy and ecology in mind, like:

  1. What is economics, and what is it for? What are the primary features of mainstream economics?
  2. Is mainstream economics a social science, or an ideology of business & money posing as social science?
  3. How did political economy of the 19. century become first neoclassical economics, and then neoliberal economics in the 20. century?
  4. What is ecological literacy and how can it be obtained?
  5. What are the primary principles of deep ecology, and how do they collide with the main assumptions & myths of mainstream economics?
  6. What is wrong with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measure, and what is wrong with the economic growth (GDP growth) obsession?
  7. Why and how do the institution of mainstream economics resist to change for a more holistic and pluralist teaching of economics?
  8. What are the most important barriers to thinking and acting ecologically, and how can we surmount them?
  9. Why and how do some mainstream economists (the so-called “useful idiots”) often serve to the narrow interests of big money in climate discussions?
  10. How do some multinational companies and their investors profit from the destruction of self-sufficient & sustainable (social & biological) ecosystems?
  11. Why is the nature often seen as a passive (nonliving) raw material resource and dumping ground, rather than the active (living) primary reproducer of our planet?
  12. What are the most popular misconceptions and myths of mainstream economics, and what are their possible causes?
  13. Why do we need a totally different economics theory & education for the sustainable human life & wellbeing on the planet? How should such an education look like?
  14. What is the place of ecology in popular economics textbooks for undergraduate students?
  15. Why do big global investors prefer unhealthy & unsustainable industrial agriculture to healthy & sustainable ecological agriculture?
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My motivation letter for a job about infectious disease dynamics

I wrote following email to an healthcare institute in Switzerland to ask a question about its job opening (mathematical modeling software for infectious disease dynamics) on 23. March, 2021:

Dear …

I couldn’t reach you by phone today. I have some questions about your job opening. 

Note: I applied for the job yesterday online, but the question is still motivation for me, as I tried to explain below.

I think, as an experienced software engineer, I have all the necessary skills and experience (in the technical sense) for developing such multi-faceted technical models. The question for me is rather the motivation.

My motivation would be finding permanent (sustainable) solutions to dangerous infectious diseases. Sustainable solution means for me, in most cases, local solutions related with the social and biological environment, including lifestyle and nourishment of people; not technological solutions imposed or controlled externally! 

If one really needs technological solutions (like well tested vaccines) in some cases, the information required for these solutions should openly be published and shared; not monopolized with mechanisms like patents.

External (i.e. imported, adopted) technological solutions can only be justified temporarily during the transition period, until a sustainable and self-sufficient local solution is established.

In other words, preventive “public healthcare” instead of “industrial healthcare” whenever and wherever possible.

But there is a problem here: Healthcare industry (like industrial agriculture) is not interested in sustainable local solutions because there is no money in it. No external control or manipulation means no money.

In January 2021, I completed writing (the first version of) my PhD thesis in economy & ecology: Why does mainstream (neoclassical) economics ignore ecology?

In case you find time and interest, I would recommend you to read A (intro) and B (conclusions) before diving into the details of other chapters.

Some health-related sections in my thesis are (related pictures are attached below):

  1. Parasitic Earnings that steal wealth from local communities and future generations
  2. Reducing healthcare to industrial healthcare (e.g. by ignoring the importance of environmental factors)
  3. Ecosystem Mutilation & Patching Business as perpetual money machine
  4. Curing symptoms instead of diseases
  5. Patent as parasitic institution (i.e. socialization of investments, privatization of profits)

My question:

What do you think about this dilemma in the context of your project? Sustainable solutions or profitable solutions? What is the end goal of your project?

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What does “sustainable wellbeing economy for all” require?

Which society is more “developed”? Download complete document

After many years of reading and research, sometimes more sometimes less intensive since 2013, including my PhD thesis in economy & ecology (2018-2021), I can summarize basic requirements of the transition from “exploitative GDP growth economy” to “sustainable wellbeing economy for all” (including future generations) in eleven bullet points.

Comments, critiques and suggestions are welcome if you have different opinions (see contact).

  1. GDP degrowth economy instead of GDP growth economy (see Less Is More by Jason Hickel for more information)
  2. Stopping military & industrial arms races (e.g. industrial fishing/agriculture/healthcare); I don’t believe, any serious social or ecological problem of humanity (including climate crisis and pandemics like covid-19) can be solved without stopping these destructive arms races that push economies toward centralisation, exploitation and destruction.
  3. Decentralization (localization) of economy; increasing local self-sufficiency in every aspect of life (e.g. food, shelter, health, recreation)
  4. Rethinking Economics & Development: End of mainstream (neoclassical/neoliberal) economics; its ideology of progress & development, technology fetishism and consumption culture
  5. Ecological lifestyle & education (philosophy, ecology, music, literature, fine arts, science, learning by doing & experiencing) instead of industrial lifestyle & education (Western ideology of progress, consumption culture and techno-science) that typically produce narrow-minded and tamed technicians for the corporate and state bureaucracy, who don’t ask inconvenient questions like “what am I working for, what is the meaning of my work, what is the ultimate purpose?” (see the case of Adolf Eichmann, the evil of mediocrity – Hannah Arendt)
  6. Protecting nature & bio-diversity along with the rights of indigenous societies
  7. Focusing on fundamental human needs like healthy environment, food & water; reducing wasteful and harmful consumption
  8. Stopping parasitic earnings that steal wealth from local communities and future generations (see Ecosystem Mutilation & Patching Business)
  9. Reclaiming the commons and Rewilding
  10. Transition from unsustainable & unhealthy industrial farming based on unsustainable monocultures (e.g. wheat, maize, rice, soybean, cotton, potato), GMOs, chemical fertilizers and pesticides to ecological farming based on sustainable & healthy polycultures
  11. Transition from fossil and nuclear energy to renewable energy (e.g. solar, wind) in parallel to GDP degrowth economy that reduce waste and consumption

Written by Tunç Ali Kütükçüoğlu, 26 March 2021

Some selected pictures of relevant sections from my PhD thesis (why does mainstream economics ignore ecology?):

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Natural Aquariums for Ecological Literacy and Ecosystem Modeling

Natural aquariums: Sustainable, low-tech, low-maintenance, low-cost aquariums (ecological aquariums)

This is a project idea that I developed in September 2021 to discuss it first with some organisations in Switzerland. You can use it, change it, improve it, and if you like, please share your ideas with me (see contact).

Natural (ecological) aquariums are very much like natural garden ponds that require very little technology and maintenance. Here are some examples of natural and semi-natural freshwater aquariums that I’ve set up so far:

(1) Biotope in my study, a low-tech natural aquarium (blog article)

This low-tech natural aquarium in its first months (YouTube video, 2007)

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My PhD thesis: Why does mainstream economics ignore ecology?

PhD thesis: Why does mainstream economics ignore ecology?

This PhD thesis is an inquiry about:
(a) Why does the mainstream (neoclassical) theory of economics ignore ecology?
(b) What is the place of ecology in the undergraduate level education in economics? Case in three European countries

Official PhD topic: The place of ecology in undergraduate economics education; the case in three European countries (La place de l’écologie dans l’enseignement de premier cycle en Science Economique: le cas de trois pays européens) – Ecole Doctorale, Università di Corsica

In my own words:
(a) Why does the theory and education of mainstream (neoclassical) economics ignore ecology?
(b) What is the place of ecology in the undergraduate level education in economics, in three European countries? (UK, Germany and Switzerland)

The latest draft-version of my PhD thesis can be downloaded here as PDF booklet.

(a) is the more philosophical part of my PhD that requires qualitative and historical analysis. (b) is the more empirical part which is based at least partially on some surveys and fact tables. I haven’t done any surveys myself; I did only unstructured and structured interviews at the beginning of my PhD work. This thesis includes information about existing survey reports, plus, content and keyword analysis of some popular economics textbooks. However, part (a) represents the primary inquiry of this thesis: Why does neoclassical economics ignore ecology? What are the historical, ideological, political and economic reasons of this ignorance? What are the most important barriers to overcome this ignorance?

Author of this thesis: Tunç Ali Kütükçüoğlu
PhD directors: Paul-Marie Romani (director), Dominique Prunetti (co-director)

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