Michael Succow Stiftung celebrates 25 years

News 08.07.2024

Michael Succow is a German academic and environmental activist who has dedicated his life to nature conservation issues at home and abroad. In May, we had the pleasure of meeting him in Greifswald, Germany, where he studied and worked at the University before also setting up his own foundation after receiving the Right Livelihood Award in 1997. The Michael Succow Stiftung celebrates 25 years in 2024 and works with nature conservation both in Germany and internationally. 

How did you find out in 1997 that you were to receive the Right Livelihood Award?

Succow: It was a total surprise: we were at a conference in Salzburg, Austria. I was summoned by the university’s Dean, who had likely been informed beforehand. He then informed me that I would be receiving the award. They provided me with a dedicated interview room at the university, and soon after, major broadcasters arrived. It was truly overwhelming.

How did the prize change the reach and impact of your work?

Succow: When I travelled to Stockholm for the award ceremony, my wife accompanied me. At that time, I didn’t have a foundation, just close collaborators with whom I had been working on nature conservation for a long time. In Sweden, meeting the other Laureates was an overwhelming experience. It was then that we decided to establish a foundation to give back some of the prize money. The foundation’s first project was abroad, in Azerbaijan.

Which of your foundation’s projects have been particularly important to you in recent years?

Succow: We were able to help establish numerous new UNESCO World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves. When there was still hope in Iran, we worked intensively there, as well as in Myanmar. We advised on the application process and liaised with UNESCO in Paris. These efforts have enriched my life and given it meaning.

All of this was made possible by the award. We now have over 50 employees and a host of collaborators from countries like Georgia and Uzbekistan. I have experienced so much in my life, in so many countries, with so many people who give me strength. My heart is full.

What is the foundation’s focus today?

Succow: One of our focuses is Germany. On our foundation’s land in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg, we either preserve old cultural landscapes or allow nature to develop on its own, depending on the area. In eastern Germany, forced collectivisation has caused significant damage, and now large investors are further harming the landscape with chemical poisons and heavy machinery. Sustainable land use is very close to my heart.

My other priorities include international work, supporting new protected areas, and protecting peatlands and the climate. Climate change naturally worries me. In Mongolia, for example, it is causing the permafrost soils to disappear. Or when I think of Ethiopia, where 40 years ago there were wonderful pasture landscapes, now everything has dried up and the lakes have turned into pillars of salt. I am currently very concerned about the future.

Fortunately, there are many committed people, and the climate movement, especially Fridays for Future, has given me new hope, as has the cooperation with many partner organisations in Germany and around the world.

Media contacts

Emoke Bebiak

English, French & International Media

E-mail: emoke.bebiak@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +41 (0)78 333 84 84

Nayla Azzinnari

Spanish Media

E-mail: nayla@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +54 9 11 5460 9860

Nina Tesenfitz

German Media

E-mail: presse@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +49 (0)170 5763 663

Sydney Nelson

Swedish Media

E-mail: sydney.nelson@rightlivelihood.org
Phone: +46 (0)73 043 13 01