Overlooking Human Dignity in Environmental Outcomes: Presentation by Professor James R. May

Join the Environmental and Energy Law Program and the International and Comparative Law Program as they host Professor James R. May, Distinguished Professor of Law and co-Founder and co-Director of the Dignity Rights Project and the Environmental Rights Institute at Widener University Delaware Law School.

Environmental outcomes and human dignity – that is, the recognition that every human being has equal worth that is inherent and inalienable – are inexorably linked. Adverse environmental conditions can adversely affect the realization of the spectrum of civil, political, and socioeconomic rights that advance human dignity. Lack of access to potable water, for example, diminishes the ability to work or learn, care for family, or participate in governance. 

International law has danced with environmental dignity, but only episodically and perfunctorily without much benefit to either the environment or those adversely affected by it. Most progress at the junction of dignity and the environment has been jurisprudential. Instead of languishing somewhere offstage, Professor May argues that human dignity ought to play a prominent role in influencing environmental policy and outcomes internationally, regionally and domestically.


About Professor May

James R. May is Distinguished Professor of Law and co-Founder and co-Director of the Dignity Rights Project and the Environmental Rights Institute at Widener University Delaware Law School. He is also Adjunct Professor of Graduate Engineering and inaugural and immediate past Chief Sustainability Officer at Widener University, where he founded the Widener Sustainability Initiative. Professor May has taught 20 courses, founded or co-founded three law centers, four non-profit environmental organizations, and a joint degree program; directed an environmental law clinic; and held numerous visiting appointments. He is also a former national defense engineer and litigator who has prosecuted hundreds of public interest claims in federal court. 

Professor May has advised numerous governments, governmental organizations, and institutions on constitutionalism, including in Brazil, China, France, Finland, Haiti, Hungary, Kenya, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Sweden, on behalf of institutions including the United Nations Environment Programme, the U.S. Department of State, and the American College of Environmental Lawyers. He is an inductee of Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, the American College of Environmental Lawyers, and the Delaware Valley Environmental Inn of Court. 

Professor May is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 15 books, including Constitutional Principles of Environmental Law; Global Environmental Constitutionalism; Environmental Constitutionalism; Judicial Handbook of Global Environmental Constitutionalism; New Frontiers in Global Environmental Constitutionalism; Environmental Rights; Encyclopedia of Human Rights and the Environment (forthcoming); Implementing Environmental Constitutionalism; and, Dignity Rights: Law, Policies and Principles (forthcoming). 

He is also the author or co-author of three-dozen book chapters, four-dozen law review articles, and five-dozen other works of published legal scholarship, on fields including environmental law, constitutionalism and rights, human dignity, and litigation. Professor May has delivered more than 300 invited presentations at academic or professional forums since 2009, and chaired or co-chaired a dozen conferences, workshops, colloquia, or symposiums. He has received numerous awards, including Pace University’s highest environmental law recognition award.

Professor May has litigated hundreds of public interest environmental claims in (mostly federal) courts across the United States, and is a member of the bar in the States of Pennsylvania and Kansas (inactive), several federal district courts and courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He holds a LLM from Pace University (Feldshuh Fellow), and a JD and BS in Mechanical Engineering (Bowman Scholar) from the University of Kansas. He is also a certified engineer who formerly worked in national defense (Q-clearance).