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 mainstream (neoclassical) theory of 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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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?”
  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

Project-Idea-Natural-Aquariums-for-Ecological-Literacy-and-Ecosystem-Modeling_20210319

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5 Essential Questions for all Departments of Economics

What is Ecological Literacy, and how to obtain it?

As stated in the Open Letter of 65+ student associations from 30+ countries, “it is not only the world economy that is in crisis. The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this crisis has consequences far beyond the university walls.”

Is the mainstream theory of economics taught at most economy departments a real science in the service of whole humanity (including future generations), or a pseudo science of money-making (chrematistics) that serve to the narrow interests of greedy corporations and their investors?

Let’s review the definitions before asking the 5 essential questions:

Chrematistics: The art (and pseudo science) of making money, often at all costs to nature and humanity (money justifies everything!)

Economy (oikos+nomia): Home, habitat or living space (Lebensraum) management; management of livelihood and sustenance (see: Oikonomia: Bringing the economy back to the Earth by Vandana Shiva)

Economics: A social science that deals with the production, distribution, consumption [and recycling] of goods and services. Note: Nature (i.e. living ecosystems like oceans, forests, lakes and rivers) is the primary producer and recycler. The term “recycling” is ignored in most formal definitions of economics.

Another common definition of economics:

Economics: Study of how society uses its limited [and unlimited] resources. Note: History shows us that seemingly unlimited resources like clean air or water may easily become limited within time, or vice versa. So, economics must consider all kinds of resources (living and non-living, limited and non-limited, considering complex and dynamic relationships and cycles) with a long-term view into the past and future. Economics cannot be reduced to money, market and exchange of monetary goods and services.

Are departments of economics, as departments of public universities, public schools, or just business & finance schools in the cloak of public school? If all mainstream (neoclassical, orthodox) economists develop policies for the narrow and short-term interests of business & finance, who will develop policies for the sustainable well-being of the society?

These are the five essential questions that must be asked to economics departments of every university:

(1) What lectures, seminars and other activities do you offer to undergraduate students in order to cultivate ecological literacy?

This question is extremely important because there is no sustainability without ecological literacy.

For example, lectures like biology or ecology, agroecology, evolutionary (biological & cultural) anthropology, history of civilizations including lifestyles and relationship with nature, general wildlife and ecosystem knowledge (forests, oceans, coral reefs, rivers & lakes etc.) history of economic thought including unorthodox schools like ecological economics…

What is ecological literacy?

In this article by Bill Graham, you may find a nice and neat one-sentence definition of ecological literacy:

To be ecoliterate means understanding the principles of organization of ecological communities [i.e. living ecosystems including humans], collaboration, and using these principles for creating sustainable human communities.

Here is a highly recommended book about ecological literacy:
Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World

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