Robert Gilman

(This page follows About Context Institute in the FS Main Thread.)

Dr. Robert C. Gilman, Ph.D.
President of Context Institute
Founding Editor of IN CONTEXT, A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture

In Context Articles by Robert dealing with:
Built Environment | Community | Cultural History, Futures & Analysis | Economics & Business | Gender & Relationships | Governance | his own life | Learning | Living Lightly | Natural Environment & Science | Population | Spirit | Strategies for Change | Sustainability

Robert Gilman’s background is most easily understood in five main phases:

Astrophysicist (1945 – 1975)

The first phase of Robert’s life was devoted to the sciences. He received his bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton University in 1969. He taught and did research at the University of Minnesota, the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and served as a Research Associate at NASA’s Institute for Space Studies. (For more information on this phase of Robert’s life, click here.)

Sustainability pioneer (1975 – 1996)

The second phase began in the mid 1970s when Robert decided that “the stars could wait, but the planet couldn’t.” He turned his attention to the study of global sustainability, futures research, and strategies for positive cultural change. With his late wife Diane, he designed and hand-built their own solar home in 1975. In 1979 they founded the Context Institute, one of the earliest NGOs to focus directly on sustainability, dealing with the many dimensions of community development (human, built, economic, etc.) in the context of major global trends (population, resource use, technological change, etc.).

In 1983 Context Institute began publishing IN CONTEXT, A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture, with Robert as Editor. IN CONTEXT became internationally acclaimed and in 1991 and 1994 won the Utne Readers Alternative Press Award for “Best Coverage of Emerging Issues.” During this phase Robert developed a wide background in all aspects of sustainable development including cultural history, innovation theory, sustainable economics, and greening of the built environment.

In addition, he and his family were actively involved in Citizen Diplomacy with the former USSR, they were instrumental in the founding of the Global Ecovillage Network and lived for three years in Winslow CoHousing, one of the first cohousing projects in the US based on this Danish model for community living.

During this time Robert and Diane raised their two children, Ian (b. 1971) and Celeste (b. 1981). Robert was a key resource for their home-based education.

Traveler through the dark night (1997 – 2003)

The third phase began when Diane developed a brain tumor in 1997. The intense personal journey of serving as Diane’s primary care-giver during her last 6 months had a profound impact on him. In the years immediately following her death, Robert devoted much of his time to grappling with the deeper questions such a loss raises and finding his own inner grounding in the underlying mystery of life.

He also kept the flame of Context Institute going, working as a consultant, facilitator and presenter with a variety of organizations, professional groups, and community groups to help them make changes toward greater sustainability. This experience includes:

Elected official (2004 – 2011)

The fourth phase had a strong local focus. From Jan 2004 through August 2011, Robert served as a member of the City Council in the small town of Langley, WA (population 1100). In 2006, he was elected by his fellow councilmembers as Mayor Pro-Tem, a position he held for the next five years. In 2005, he was a major organizer behind Langley’s successful levy lid lift campaign, resulting in a 71% yes-vote to raise property taxes for unrestricted general-fund use.

In 2006-07, he was the initiator and chair of Langley’s innovative Comp Plan Group, which successfully completed a Comprehensive Plan update using a broad community-based approach, maintaining the involvement of close to 100 citizen volunteers over the 2-year process and costing the city less than $15,000.

From January 2006 through June 2010, Robert held the western Washington at-large position for cities under 5,000 population on the Board of the Association of Washington Cities. He also served as a member of the AWC Small Cities Advisory Committee. From Jan 2008 to August 2011, he served on the Board of Directors of Island Transit, the local transit organization for Island County, WA.

During this time he continued to speak on sustainability issues, including making keynote presentations at the Village Building Convergence (Portland), the National Co-Housing conference (Seattle), and the Global Ecovillage Network GEN-10 conference (Findhorn).

On a more personal note, he and Lianna married in the summer of 2004.

Planetary Era midwife (2011 to present)

Robert’s on-going work draws on all the phases of his life as he works toward a humane and sustainable future in the emerging Planetary Era.

His primary focus is the Foundation Stones project, whose results are available here on this website.

He also continues to provide consulting and speaking. If you are interested in getting Robert’s participation in your project or event, contact us.

(The next piece in the FS Main Thread is The Core Challenge Of Our Times.)