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Europe needs a civic CERN

Back on Track with Verena Ringler

22. October 2019
Magazine > Voices > Europe needs a civic CERN

Join us for a train ride with Verena Ringler, director of European Commons and curator of the Tipping Point Talks 2019. She helps prepare the ground for the next EU and proposes to do things differently to do different things. In the fifth episode she explains why Europe needs a civic CERN.

“In June 2019 I travelled to Geneva. Underneath that city runs a 27-km long circular tunnel. And in that tunnel is a gigantic particle collider. It allows protons to clash. “Now, what is the nature of our universe and what is it made of?” is what scientists, researchers – mostly physicists – ask at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. I was fascinated by three things there. First, the celebration of human ambition, of our quest to go beyond the boundaries of our knowledge. Second, I admired this open-source ethos there, the idea that you are free from privatising this knowledge, the freedom from licensing and from patenting. And thirdly, I love the cooperative spirit that you need when you want to develop things like the World Wide Web or when you want to find the Higgs boson. Both success stories made at CERN. Now looking at our life in the European Union, why is it that we leave the prevalence of the rule of law, of civil liberties, of human rights to civic activists or to courts, who usually kick in when the damage is already done? Wouldn’t it save us a lot of headaches if we started at source with proper research and development, where we could build and develop the societies that we need for times of disruption? More than one billion euros of taxpayers’ money is what we spend every year at CERN. And that is absolutely beautiful. What if we spent the same amount of attention and of taxpayers’ money on asking not only about the smallest and the farthest away elements in our universe, but also about our closest elements, i.e. our neighbours? How about we develop a twin organisation, a civic CERN that could be decentralised, multi-disciplinary, cooperative and open source? Europe needs a civic CERN.”

This text and video is published under the Creative Commons License: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. The name of the author/rights holder should be mentioned as followed. Author: Jovana Trifunovic and Igor Bararon / erstestiftung.org. Cover picture: © xenotar / Experiments Detail, ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) / istockphoto.com 


Back on Track

As our world is facing major geopolitical shifts and challenges, from the rise of nationalism to increased demands for privacy, from balancing growing human needs with environmental limits, there is undoubtedly space for major improvements. We see civil society as the key driving force in this process and have therefore launched the video series Back on Track about social engagement and activism as a clear sign of support to the dedicated change makers in our societies. Europe needs a civic CERN is the fifth episode of the second season of Back on Track.