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  • Writer's pictureSofia Greaves

Nuclear bee hives

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Julia is German and she rock climbs. She also makes soap from chestnuts, which release saponine when cut into quarters and soaked overnight.

I trust Julia because she also grows pumpkins, makes tomato jam, and fed me olives she picked whilst wwoofing in Puglia (left 3 months in brine). Whilst I was busy admiring Julia she made two batches of tomato jam.

If Julia were a colour she would be blue ink dropped on paper, from a great height.

Once she did a project to save toads from being squashed when crossing the road.

Julia is also doing a Phd on protecting soil biodiversity and I couch surfed at her house on Wednesday night before speaking at the JRC.

We foraged & ate these

Julia also makes sourdough bread

The Joint Research Centre is a strange place, uncanny, built in 1960, and you are not allowed to take pictures. It is a 'fully fenced, 167-hectare research campus for hands-on experimentation, testing and demonstration purposes.' In size it equals the Principality of Monaco (the second smallest country in the world), sits next to the Lago Maggiore, and entry is by Special Permit Only.

This blog presents a series of vignettes using a technique for capturing vivid memories and experiences I learnt from poet Pele Cox. We met at the British School at Rome, a place which changed a lot of things for me, and she said that I should take home written pictures. First you put all your random thoughts on to paper by automatic writing (5 mins). Next pick out interesting bits, and rearrange them to create passages composed from speech, senses, anecdotes, impressions, et cetera. I can see from this process that what struck me most was a contrast between two voices.

This is a blog about democracy.

EDIT: At the end of the blog there are some clarifications provided by a wise commentator.

Joint Research Centre, 4th Public Participation and Deliberative Democracy Festival (20/10/2022)



via Francia, mini Eiffel tower

approximately 1:1000 scale.

Test facility for humanitarian demining technology

macchine per grandi carichi dinamici

no dogs.

loud beeping

Centre for Seismic Vulnerability of Historical Constructions

Orange doors and

Arches, from the cathedral in Lisbon.

via Gran Bretagna

The Makers' Space

"Think and tinker."

We are all made to wear beige slippers.

"BEES are pollinators"

Pollinator ambassadors.

We pretend to be bees.

It was recently Bees Needs' Week

There is graffiti which attracts


and is good for bees.


Make a bee house from old wooden shelves or

"The perfect size for a bee hive is 40 litres".

We scored 37 points in the game of bees collectively choosing the hot pink hive which was far from pesticides sat 1m above the ground and was adequately furnished with sunlight, water, flowers and a small chance of destruction.

Cubes of cheese mozzarella balls

Sausage rolls

and coffee.


via Estonia.

vehicle emissions laboratory

five types of mushrooms and a

nuclear reactor.


this is not a joke.

Scientists practice nuclear diplomacy

and it is green.

"THE TAXONOMY EXPERT GROUP CONSIDERS that the challenges of safe longterm disposal of high level radioactive waste can be ADEQUATELY MANAGED"



Three Mile Island

"MOVE AHEAD with the inclusion of nuclear under the sustainable finance taxonomy."

via Estonia.

this is not a joke.

Catastrophes can be averted

in a slow crisis room

1000s of people can forecast the weather

through doing together.

In Greenland

you can't own land

you have a right to use it.

I drew a square around my house

people pass through its gardens

in beautiful shared ownership.

Machine learning.

Machine learning.

Machine learning applied to paintings to determine whether they make us feel happy or sad.

The use of machine learning to curate art exhibitions to make us feel happy or sad.

When a hive becomes too full, bees colonise.

20,000 bees in a colony of 80,000 scout out

the best possible land.

From a place of rest they individually seek

locations and on finding an ideal spot

'waggle dance'.

if friends think the dance convincing

they visit

come back

and dance in similar fashion.

Enough bees dancing the same way can convince the rest

achieving critical mass hypnotically

then relocation can ensue

I think of how this might apply at a music festival.

Bees require a 20% waggle majority.

: a quorum

In your society what questions are open to democratic debate and why?

Bees make collective decisions on matters concerning their survival by listening and sharing knowledge

scarce time and resources require it.

Collectively they choose to kill the queen if she

is not up to scratch.

(We say nice things about the bees achieving democracy )

I bump into a student I supervised on the topic of fascist Italy

Ezra Pound wrote poems about antiquity in English and Italian

whilst broadcasting radio in support of dictators

An artist or a technocrat?

Italy has a neo - fascist prime minister, who wants to expand nuclear.

What if the Joint Research Centre closed

and became a nuclear site.

Waters of the Lago Maggiore were originally used for cooling

Filtered to ensure the radionuclides are out

before dumping again in lake or ocean.

Technocracy: the control of society or an industry by an elite of technical experts. 'The former government of the Soviet Union has been referred to as a technocracy. 89% of Politburo members were engineers.'

Democracy: what we do?

Wooden tulips in an orange plastic pot with a dead cactus glued to a rock.

"We have two announcements. First, and not connected to this conference, I would like to say that the prime minister of Great Britain Liz Truss has resigned."

Bee queen Liz truss deposed.

Waggle Dance

"It is expensive to run a physically disconnected country"

Can we manage society like a bee hive?

The PP/DD Festival asked questions like 'how do we govern the metaverse?', 'When is it that real citizen participation actually increases the quality of our democracy?' and 'can we govern society like a bee hive?'

Who decides what technologies we make and how they are used?

What governance structures do the technologies themselves impose?

How can we empower ourselves to have more of a say in the above?

Collective, individual, democratic, autocratic, technocratic forms of decision making

are different forms of governance which can affect knowledge production - for example, the technologies we make, and the uses to which they are put.

I have learnt a lot from the researchers at the JRC Democracy event and their approaches. I think this is captured best in the comments made by one presenter on her project researching community responses to mineral mining.

"Film making and the arts are really powerful voices in Greenland at the moment.

Theatre and film brings people together to articulate these things in different ways.

Very powerful things can happen in arts

but it's often not reflected upon properly.

The real impacts of art cannot be argued very easily because the lifetime of our projects is not long enough for that to be measured."

This is a Catch 22 because the idea that arts projects have 'immeasurable use' means they receive less funding than 'traditional' science approaches, from 'aeroplane motors' to 'energie renovabili' - but they are just as important. The arts encourage different ways of knowing the world and relating to one another.

EDIT: Clarifications

- I do not think the JRC is a technocracy. The Soviet Union was a technocracy.

- I very much like Ezra Pound's poems and consider them hugely important.

Nuclear reactor

- Many of the JRC scientists work in Decommissioning or nuclear Safety, some even in (nuclear) diplomacy.

- Meloni has very little to say about the research funded at JRC – it is very much a European institution and Meloni would have exactly as much influence as her representative (if she has time to nominate a member of the National Science Academy) would compared to any of the other 26 scientific members of the JRC Board of Governors. And that only after the decisions of the Scientific Committee and the hive of researchers presenting/defending their projects. So there is little risk that we would ‘become nuclear again’. The wisdom of European construction?

Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen:

- The institutes have been abolished in 2016. The Protection and Security of the Citizen looked at a host of issues from cybersecurity and fake news to plastics used in the food chain or eg research into the elimination of lab animals.

Selected JRC sessions outlined above

The Hive: Democracy in a honeybee hive

The Hive: Democracy in a Superorganism is an interactive exercise that draws on the idea of honeybee democracy and decision-making in a honeybee hive during swarming: a critical moment when a honeybee colony needs to find a new nesting location before honey supplies run out. Using a game format, participants have to work together to solve a common problem that honeybees face. The aim of The Hive is to experience what it might be like for honeybees to make decisions as a collective, and ultimately reflect on what participatory democracy means for us as humans and whether we can learn from other species and their systems of “democracy”. MODERATORS: NADINE SCHULLER & NYNKE BLÖMER (CO-FOUNDERS OF POLLINATOR AMBASSADORS)

What can civic monitoring offer to deliberative democracy?

Our interactive session brings a distinctive form of deliberative democracy, i.e. the reality of ‘civic assemblies’, in dialogue with that of 'civic environmental monitoring'. Through contributions from research and from practice (invited Observatories), we illustrate how the two forms of participation can be complementary in facilitating collective decision-making. We outline the promises and perils of bringing these instruments together, both in the preliminary phase of the civic assemblies and in the implementation of recommendations stemming from collective deliberation. A live illustrator will accompany our panel with scribbling and invite participants to do the same.


The mountain that became the epicentre for a democratic discussion about Greenland’s future

The Kuannarsuit/Kvanefjeld plateu in South Greenland is thought to contain the world's second-largest deposit of rare-earth oxides, sixth-largest deposit of uranium and one of the largest multi-element deposits of its kind in the world. This session will present an artwork that refract the different facets, local perceptions and decision-making around the plans for the mining of Kvanefjeld. Fragments of interviews, children's toys, impacts from melting glaciers, radiation monitoring of polar bears, radioactive rocks, tweets from the US president and traditional knowledge create a swirling fractal narrative about the discussion about a mountain that has become the epicentre for a democratic discussion about Greenland’s future. Lise will be in conversation with Adriaan Eeckels.


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