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 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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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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Economics or Anthropology?

About a week ago, a retired academician of economics from Switzerland wrote me following lines in his email:

I recommend you not to spend your time in criticizing mainstream economics, as those critics are widely known within the profession, but to concentrate on more recent ways of thinking  (bio-economics, circular, share economics etc) and to show how these theories are useful for policy making. I suggest to change the title of your thesis: How economic theory deals with ecology.

The unofficial short title that I often use for my PhD is why does mainstream economics ignore ecology? which seems to be too offensive for some economists.

The official and scientific(!) long title is: What is the place of ecology (i.e. ecological literacy) in mainstream undergraduate economics education?

I wrote him back that my PhD investigates why mainstream economics ignored (or downplayed the importance of) ecology in undergraduate education, and it was a fact (based on sufficient evidence as I presented in my 4. progress report) that mainstream education of economics ignored ecology. Nevertheless, I would think about his suggestions.

Then I really reflected on his suggestions, and posted following paragraphs to my LinkedIn timeline:

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Most Popular Myths of Mainstream Economics

Creating social and ecological rifts in the name of economic development & growth

These are in my opinion the most popular myths of mainstream (neoclassical, neoliberal) economics. Comments, critiques and suggestions are welcome.

Note that most of these myths are also the myths of modern Western industrial education that generally fosters a sufficient level of ignorance in disciplines like philosophy, ecology, anthropology, history, music and other fine arts. In most cases, these broad-viewed disciplines help us see the complete picture related with big economic questions.

(1) If a company is earning money in legal ways, it must be producing something useful for the society, and creating new jobs.

Ignores many legal ways of earning money with huge hidden (social and ecological) costs to the society, like dirty mining/industry/energy projects, or industrial agriculture based on mechanistic monocultures.

A myth, much inspired by the “invisible hand” argument of Adam Smith, ignores invisible costs (negative externalities) to today’s societies and future generations.

This is probably the most central, most popular, and for the global finance/corporation/oil/weapon oligarchy most useful myth, which boils down to: “Every medium is right for earning money and power, provided that it has a legal and ideological cloak.”

Because politicians and governments can be controlled with money in our modern times (a global tendency since 1990s) along with mass media and mainstream (industrial) education, this in turn boils down to: “Money justifies everything!”

(2) Every country in the world can become developed to reach better living standards by following the same historical path of a developed country like Germany (education, industrialization, organization, technology, urbanization, modern institutions…)

Ignores military and industrial imperialism, global oligarchies and monopolies, physical and ecological limits of the world.

Erroneously assumes, there is, or there must be, a single direction of development and progress for every society in the world (racist Western ideology of progress, misinterpretation of cultural evolution, industrial & neoclassical worldview).

Living standards is also a very much disputed term. Societies cannot be compared or measured by living standards because there are different cultures and lifestyles. How can you compare the living standards of a lion and a leopard? For example, the concept of education (i.e. what is a good education?) can be different for every society and lifestyle.

Believing in this myth is like believing, everyone in a society can become rich by stealing from others. The money mogul of the village didn’t become rich because he worked more, smarter or more efficiently than the others, but because he controlled and monopolized strategic resources much earlier than the others.

(3) Let’s make the cake bigger (GDP growth) so that everyone can get a larger slice (popular growing cake analogy for economic growth).

By ignoring the non-monetary production of nature and society (through narrow focus on money and market only) erroneously assumes that GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is a good measure of economic production and welfare (mechanistic and monetary reductionism).

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