Dear IC Readers,

The start of 1995 marks the opening of a significant new chapter for Context Institute, a chapter we are looking forward to sharing with you.

One example is the fresh new design of the journal you hold in your hands. Another is that I’m writing this letter in a house in Delft, Netherlands, which will be home for the Gilmans and CI’s "European Office" for much of 1995. A third is that within minutes after I’ve finished writing, this letter will arrive as electronic mail on Kathryn’s computer – CI’s global virtual office is alive and well. In these ways we are extending the reach of our work and making it more broadly accessible.

As part of these changes I’m pulling back from the day-to-day management of both the institute and the journal. This year I’ll be redirecting my energies to explore the sustainability movement outside of North America and start some in-depth work on sustainable economics.

We’ve begun our exploration in the Netherlands, the country that, at least among industrialized countries, is doing the most to create a sustainable future for itself. I look forward to discovering much more about what the Dutch are doing, how it’s working, and how others might learn from their efforts. It’s already clear that one of the strengths they draw on is a long history of careful land use planning. It is hard to believe that this is the most densely populated major country in Europe (and one of the most dense in the world), with all the green space between the compact cities and towns.

Delft, which feels like a small town although it has a population of about 90,000, is a prime example. It is an easy bike ride, even walk, from any part of the city out to the surrounding farmlands. And speaking of bikes, they’re all over, ridden by every age group, and provided with bike lanes (including their own bike traffic lights) everywhere. Much of the housing is in three-story row houses, small by American standards. Yet they yeild a quality of life for a broad spectrum of the Dutch population that lives in them that is at least as good as much of what our suburbs (not to mention cities) provide.

We’ll be looking at a lot of other countries as well, beginning with Australia and New Zealand. Thanks to a speaking tour being arranged by the Australian Permaculture Convergence, I’ll get my first look down under in February and March. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the innovative work they have been doing in developing eco-cities and eco-villages. Our underlying purpose is to strengthen the worldwide sustainability movement. We’ve got a lot to learn from each other, and we can certainly use all the help we can get.

So this is CI’s new chapter. We look forward to sharing it with you, and a growing network of others around the world.

Context Institute founder and director Robert Gilman will be traveling around the world over the next year. Robert will be researching and advising on sustainability in other countries, with a special focus on economics. He writes to us from Delft, Netherlands.

Robert can be reached at this e-mail address:

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