Robert C. Gilman

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Biographical Information

Dr. Robert C. Gilman, Ph.D., President of Context Institute.

"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.

"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 inWinslow CoHousing, one of the first cohousing projects in the US based on this Danish model for community living.

"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:

"involvement with the American Institute of Architects at a national level on environmental and sustainability issues "serving on the Board of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild "serving as faculty in Antioch University’s Environment and Community Master’s program "facilitating the Findhorn Community in Scotland to develop a community constitution and establish its own self-governance.

"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..."[1]


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  1. context Robert C. Gilman, organizational web page, accessed June 24, 2013.