Sustainable Democratic Constitutionalism and Climate Change

10 Feb 2020

The McGill Law Journal is delighted to welcome Professor James Tully, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Law at University of Victoria, to speak to our Annual Lecture entitled, “Sustainable Democratic Constitutionalism and Climate Change.”

We know that law is a major enabler of the human activities that cause climate change, biodiversity destruction, and related ecosocial crises. We also turn to the law to regulate, mitigate and attempt to transform these unsustainable human activities and systems. Yet, third, these regulatory regimes are often “recaptured” or “overridden” in turn by the very anthropogenic processes causing the crises, as Joseph Stiglitz puts it. The resulting vicious cycles constitute the global trilemma of the twenty-first century that is rapidly rendering the living earth uninhabitable for humans, in radically unequal ways, and for thousands of other species. Integral, nonviolent, sustainable democratic constitutionalism is one, modest, experimental, trial and error, response to this trilemma. In the lecture, Professor Tully will set out basic features of this response and discuss its strengths and weaknesses with the audience.

Lecture: Sustainable Democratic Constitutionalism and Climate Change

Date: Tuesday February 18th

Time: 5:30 with a cocktail to follow

Location: McGill Faculty of Law, Room 100 (Moot Court), 3644 Peel Street, Montreal, QC

The conference is free, open to the public and can be used for continuing education with the Quebec bar.  To register and stay informed, please follow this link:

Suggested readings

The emergence of democratic constitutionalism: JT, ‘The Unfreedom of the moderns in comparison to their ideals of constitutional democracy’, in Public Philosophy in a New Key, Volume II, pp. 91-124.

Sustainable democratic constitutionalism and reconciliation: JT, ‘Reconciliation here on earth’, Michael Asch, John Borrows, James Tully, eds., Resurgence and Reconciliation: Indigenous-Settler Relations and Earth Teachings (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018), pp. 83-132.

Background readings

Integral sustainable democratic constitutionalism: JT, J. Dunoff, A. Lang, M. Kumm, A. Wiener, ‘Editorial: ‘Introducing global integral constitutionalism’, Global Constitutionalism: human rights, democracy, law, 5: 1, pp.  1.-15.

Using sustainable democratic constitutionalism creatively: JT, On Global Citizenship: James Tully in Dialogue (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).

A Mahatma Gandhi & Richard Gregg response: JT, ‘Editor’s Introduction: Integral nonviolence’, in Richard B. Gregg, The Power of Nonviolence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. xxi-lxii.

A brief history of the trilemma: JT, ‘Life Sustains Life 1’ & ‘Life Sustains Life 2’, Akeel Bilgrami, ed., Nature and Value (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020), chapters 1 & 2.