Kenny Ausubel

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Kenny Ausubel is a social entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Bioneers, a nationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to disseminating practical and visionary solutions for restoring Earth’s imperiled ecosystems and healing our human communities. Ausubel launched the annual National Bioneers Conference in 1990 with his producing partner and wife, Nina Simons, Bioneers Co-Founder.[1] He has received the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Challenge Award as well as awards from the Rainforest Action Network and Global Green, among others.[2]


At age 19[3] Ausubel woke up one morning paralyzed on the left side of his body. Unable to see straight or even swallow, he went to several different doctors but none of them could diagnose what had caused the stroke-like symptoms. Out of desperation Ausubel sought alternative forms of medicine where he learned what had caused his health crisis- massive exposure to a chemical called dioxin, a toxic environmental pollutant. Upon learning that most people exposed to dioxin died of cancer or a stroke, Ausubel realized he was lucky to be alive and wanted to give something back to the world.[4]

As part of his recovery process, Ausubel relocated from New York City to New Mexico to be in a healthier environment. After a brief stay in Santa Fe, he moved to a farm just outside town where he met other back-to-the-landers who taught him about organic gardening, natural building, composting toilets, solar energy, and vegetable canning.[5]

Early career[edit]

Hoxsey: When Healing Becomes a Crime[edit]

As his health was finally stabilizing, Ausubel's father back in New York City was diagnosed with cancer and died just six months later. This propelled Ausubel on a research mission to learn everything he could about alternative cancer treatments. He took a special interest in the Hoxsey Herbal Treatment and produced a film and book about it entitled Hoxsey: When Healing Becomes a Crime.[6]

Seeds of Change[edit]

Since the Hoxsey formula was an herbal one, Ausubel became immersed in the world of botanical medicine. This pursuit led him to Gabriel Howearth who had spent years with indigenous farmers learning about traditional healing plants and ancient farming practices.[7] In 1989 they founded Seeds of Change a seed company aiming to restore "backyard biodiversity" by selling farmers and home gardeners open-pollinated, nonhybridized seeds from crops grown for generations in the same geographic area.[8] Ausubel served as the company's CEO from 1989 to 1994. He authored Seeds of Change: The Living Treasure about the company's mission and work.[9]


In 1990, Ausubel and his wife and business partner, Nina Simons, founded the Bioneers organization and conference to make the public aware of existing, viable solutions to the world's most pressing environmental and social problems. It was initially called the Seeds of Change conference, due to their close ties with the seed company, but the partnership ended when Ausubel and Simons left Seeds of Change in 1994.[10] Ausubel coined the term bioneer to mean "biological pioneers" who see the solutions to contemporary global problems not in technology but in a biological model of interconnectedness, in what Ausubel calls true biotechnologies, based on biomimicry, natural design, and the restoration of natural capital.[11]

The National Bioneers Conference[edit]

The idea for the Bioneers conference arose from a 1989 meeting with Josh Mailman, a visionary leader in social investment and philanthropy who was involved with Seeds of Change and the Hoxsey film. When Ausubel described various biomimetic innovators and other breakthrough environmental solutions, Mailman proposed a conference and offered to fund it. The conference began in Santa Fe as a small, primarily regional event with modest national aspirations. About 250 people attended in the first year. It focused on ideas from three principal streams of work: biological and cultural diversity, biomimicry, and natural medicine.[12]

Today the national conference, which is held each October in San Rafael, California attracts more than 3,000 people and features luminaries such as Michael Pollan, Dr. Andrew Weil, Gloria Steinem, Jane Goodall, Philippe Cousteau, Eve Ensler, Bill McKibben, Paul Hawken as well as "the greatest people you've never heard of."[13] The focus of the conference has also expanded and primarily draws from the organization's various programs, which are Moonrise: Cultivating Women's Leadership, Restorative Food Systems, Education for Action, Indigeneity, Youth Unite, and Dreaming New Mexico, a project of neighborhood resilience.[14]

Beaming Bioneers[edit]

In 2002, Bioneers began partnering with organizations throughout the country to offer the conference experience locally. Participating organizations hosted their own gatherings, where they streamed live lectures from the San Rafael conference, and also presented their own local speakers. To date, 23 communities in the US and Canada have hosted Beaming Bioneers gatherings, bringing Bioneers' total attendance to over 10,000 people each fall.[15]

Bioneers radio series[edit]

Ausubel serves as executive producer and co-writer of the award-winning annual radio series Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature, which airs on over 450 stations in 13 countries.[16] Now in its 12th year, the 13-part series of half-hour shows features social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for people and planet.[17] The series has won several awards from the International Communicator Awards, the New York Festival of International Radio, and was nominated for the United Nations Public Information Program Award for Environmental Programming.[18] The series is released every summer and is distributed by The WFMT Radio Network.

Books & Films[edit]

Ausubel has produced several documentary films about alternative medicine including the award-winning feature documentary film Hoxsey: How Healing Becomes a Crime. The movie played theatrically and garnered the highest viewer response at that time it aired on HBO and later on Bravo. The film had a special screening for members of Congress at the Kennedy Center. He also founded and operates Inner Tan Productions, a feature film development company, and has written two screenplays.[19]

Ausubel acted as a central advisor to Leonardo DiCaprio on his feature documentary The 11th Hour, and appears in the film.[20]

Ausubel has written several books— When Healing Becomes a Crime: The Amazing Story of the Hoxsey Cancer Clinics and the Return of Alternative Therapies (2000); The Bioneers: Declarations of Interdependence (1995) and Seeds of Change: The Living Treasure (1994). His most recent book is Dreaming the Future: Reimagining Civilization in the Age of Nature.

Personal life[edit]

Ausubel attended Yale and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University in 1972. He lives in the mountains outside Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife Nina and their two dogs.[21]


  1. ^ Institute of Noetic Sciences, Directory of Visionaries
  2. ^ Chelsea Green Publishing
  3. ^ Dreaming the Future: Reimagining Civilization in the Age of Nature, p.xvi
  4. ^ "Kenny's Open Road," Road Trip Nation
  5. ^ Dreaming the Future: Reimagining Civilization in the Age of Nature, p.xv
  6. ^ Dreaming the Future: Reimagining Civilization in the Age of Nature, p. xv
  7. ^ Dreaming the Future: Reimagining Civilization in the Age of Nature, p.xvi
  8. ^ Sharpe, "Food Giant to Dump New Mexico Seed Operation, "The New Mexican", August 25, 2010
  9. ^ Seed Institute Conference Presenter Bio
  10. ^ The Bioneers Creation Story Bioneers Website
  11. ^ [1] Singing To the Plants
  12. ^ The Bioneers Creation Story Bioneers Website
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ [3]
  15. ^ Beaming Bioneers Blog
  16. ^ [4]
  17. ^ PRX
  18. ^ WFMT Radio
  19. ^ Chelsea Green Publishing
  20. ^ Seed Graduate Institute
  21. ^ Seed Graduate Institute

External links[edit]