Closing the world’s equity gap requires concerted policy shifts, says Indian activist

Vandana Shiva is an environmentalist and physicist who earned her doctorate at Western University. (Photo courtesy of Evil Twin Bookings)

The gap between rich and poor, between powerful and disenfranchised, has rarely been more pronounced than it is now, says world-renowned activist and scientist Vandana Shiva.

The India-based environmentalist and physicist, who earned her doctorate at Western University, is a key speaker at a Western-organized international three-day conference called Organizing Equality.

“Issues of equality have been at the forefront of news as never before.,” said co-organizer Joshua Lambier, director of the Public Humanities at Western. “This isn’t merely a theoretical exercise. It’s real-life wrestling with issues that are in the headlines every day.”

More than 120 academics, artists and activists are scheduled to present papers or participate in the proceedings in the Friday-to-Sunday event, organized by members of Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Speakers include Dene First Nation activist Glen Coulthard of British Columbia, British living-wage advocate Kate Pickett and representatives from Black Lives Matter Toronto. The conference takes place at Museum London. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Conference committee member Nick Dyer-Witheford said, “Recent events in the US and elsewhere have super-charged discussions about equity and equality. We hope this becomes an occasion where interesting and important conversations are happening.”

Shiva is author of more than 20 books and internationally recognized for her work in founding the ecological and social research think-tank, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India. She is a winner of multiple social-justice and environmental awards, including the international Earth Day Award.

Now living and working in India, Shiva conducted research on quantum theory at Western. She credits the university with shaping her thinking about the potential in everything and for helping launch her inter-disciplinary work in science, technology and environmental policy.

“The most important challenge we face today is first the concentration of economic power,” she says. “We have a one-per-cent ruling the world: eight men controlling half the wealth of the world. Eight men. And at the rate at which the number is shrinking, there will be two or three in a few years.”

Worldwide inequity of wealth has led to seismic policy shifts and in education, health, energy, transportation, trade — and, most importantly, it has meant a “hijack of democracy…(despite) all the inadequacies those democracies might have had,” Shiva says.

“We are facing all of history’s challenges, lasered down into our moment of 2017. That means we need to bring to bear all of our collective imagination and all our collective energy to ask and respond, how do we create alternatives that prevent the destruction of the planet and the destruction of society?”

Shiva’s address takes place Friday evening. Media are welcome to interview her immediately before or after her talk, and any time throughout the weekend by contacting Dyer-Witheford at 519-870-0646 or

For more information on conference speakers, times and topics:

MEDIA CONTACT: Debora Van Brenk, Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85165, or on mobile at 519-318-0657 and

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Vandana Shiva is an environmentalist and physicist who earned her doctorate at Western University. (Photo courtesy of Evil Twin Bookings)