As the Co-founder and Chief Relationship Strategist of Bioneers, Nina Simons has been a catalyst for change in the environmental, food systems, sustainability, social justice, and gender equity movements for over three decades. Her new book, Nature, Culture, and the Sacred: A Woman Listens for Leadership, explores the power of women's resilience and how to reconnect people, nature, and the land.
From New York to Santa Fe
The daughter of artists, Simons grew up in New York City surrounded by the theater scene. She studied the arts at the New Lincoln School and majored in Theater, Psychology, and English at Cornell University, skills that would hone her innate ability to speak and write to vast audiences at a personal level.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, she met her husband, Kenny Ausubel, a social entrepreneur, investigative journalist, and award-winning filmmaker. Simons was essential in helping Ausubel create the documentary film on alternative cancer treatments entitled Hoxsey: When Healing Becomes a Crime.
Sowing Seeds of Change
With the film and the Hoxey method centered around botanical medicines, Ausubel joined Gabriel Howearth in learning about traditional healing plants and growing practices from Indigenous farmers. Simons quit her job and joined the two as they started an organic seed entrepreneurship, Seeds of Change.
Quickly, Simons became the company's president, helping distribute and conserve an array of heirloom and traditional food, herb and flower varieties. Starting with empowering backyard gardeners to take back the food system, the organization grew to process various organic foods at scale. She stepped down from Seeds of Change to become the Strategic Marketing Director for the juice company Odwalla, expanding its brand and outreach to nonprofit organizations.
With many overwhelming environmental and social challenges facing the world, Simons and Ausubel were inspired to co-found Bioneers, highlighting the solutions to these issues and uniting those willing to fight for a just transition. Coined by Ausubel, a “bioneer” is a "biological pioneer,” or those working in diverse disciplines on global solutions who view all life as interdependent.
In 1990, the first Bioneers Conference took place. Speakers from all over the world presented ideas on environmental and socio-political activism, farming and gardening, Indigenous wisdom, biodiversity and wildland preservation, spirituality, literature, the arts, and women's and youth movements, among many others.
Today, Bioneers has grown into an innovative nonprofit organization that continues to showcase breakthrough solutions for restoring people and the planet. Every year, the conference convenes, acting as a hub for social and scientific innovators working on the world’s most pressing issues.
An UnReasonable woman
Additionally, Simons established the UnReasonable Women for the Earth retreat, where 34 women leaders came together to start a women’s movement with the environment at its heart. The name came from the notion that girls are raised to be 'well behaved’ and 'reasonable’ and that standing up for gender, social, and environmental rights will break that narrative. Evolving into CodePink: Women for Peace, the retreat became a grassroots organization advocating for peace.
In 2010, Simons and Anneke Campbell collected more than 30 voices and stories from around the world, creating the critically acclaimed, Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart. The book illuminates women's resilience and aims to transform the mindset and definition of what is feminine and masculine in the world.
Her latest book, Nature, Culture, and the Sacred: A Woman Listens for Leadership, inspires those to embrace a new model of leadership, that through women and Indigenous wisdom, humanity can reconnect to the Earth. Released as a second edition in June 2022, an accompanying discussion guide and embodied practices are included. The first edition won the Gold Nautilus awards in women, intersectionality, and social justice.
A Daughter for Earth
Simons is a force to be reckoned with, overflowing with optimism that the world and its deeply-rooted systems can be changed, paired with an intense urgency that it needs to begin now and with each individual. One Earth is proud to partner with Bioneers and have Simons on the Advisory Council for Daughters for Earth, a campaign that supports women-led climate solutions.