Michael Succow

Awarded 1997


For his commitment to safeguard natural eco-systems and areas of outstanding natural value for future generations.

Michael Succow is a German academic and environmental activist who has dedicated his life to nature conservation issues at home and abroad. Travelling all over the former USSR, he advised the new governments on land use and contributed to setting up biosphere reserves and national parks.

Back in Germany, he helped design a general reform of land-use policies and developed a new integrated university curriculum for teaching land use and sustainable development. Succow has also been very active in promoting scientific research and ecological education to create environmental NGOs in the relevant areas and to ensure the full participation of the local population.

I think, that the only developments that can be considered to be “progress”, are those that are supported by nature.

Michael Succow, 1997 Laureate

Michael Succow was born in 1941 and graduated in biology from the University of Greifswald in 1965, where he became a scientific assistant. He became involved in nature conservation and started the organisation Florenschutz, for which he organised a conference in Czechoslovakia in 1972.

In 1969, because of his sympathies with the Prague Spring, Succow left his post at the university, but continued working on nature conservation issues at home and abroad.

With perestroika in 1989 came Succow's opportunity. Appointed as a deputy minister in the first post-Communist government, working with his colleagues Knapp, Freude and Jeschke, six biosphere reserves and five national parks were set up during the last months of the GDR. Since then, the four colleagues (SKFJ) have worked hard to safeguard and extend nature conservation areas. They have been prominent in the (not always successful) struggle against destructive industrial developments (e.g. the Baltic Sea Autobahn, mass tourism infrastructure on Rügen Island, and extending the Elbe river bed).

In 1990 Succow was awarded the Lina-Haehnle-Medal for German Nature Conservation and was made Vice-President of the organisation Naturschutzbund (NABU) Deutschland.

SKFJ travelled all over the former Soviet Union and some other countries to help advise the new governments on land use and setting up biosphere reserves and national parks. Including seven in Georgia, covering a third of the country. SKFJ was also involved in establishing programmes in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, setting up three World Heritage Sites in Russia and reserves in Russia and Belarus.

In all this work, Succow and his colleagues have sought to build up environmental NGOs in the relevant areas to ensure the local population’s full participation.

Back at the University of Greifswald as a Professor, Succow developed a new integrated curriculum for teaching land use and sustainable development and the first partnerships with universities in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The University of Greifswald has been setting up an ambitious new international programme "to prepare landscape ecologists for the challenges of the 21st century".

As a member of the expert advisory committee to the Federal Environment Committee, Succow has helped design a general reform of land-use policies in Germany. Which in turn would promote environmentally sound agriculture, limit urban areas, establish wilderness, bring economic and social stability to rural areas and redirect EU subsidies to ecologically productive services.

Succow and his colleagues have also lobbied for ecologically sensitive land use in their home states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg. In North-eastern Germany they have developed one of the most ecologically sensitive land-use policies in the world. The biosphere reserves of Spreewald and, even more so, Schorfheide-Chorin, have already become showcase areas for organic agriculture, sustainable forestry, sensitive tourism, near-city recreation and the build-up of 'flowering landscapes' in the former GDR.

After retiring from the university in 2006, Michael Succow continued to work for nature conservation within the Michael Succow Foundation. He set up the foundation in 1999 with the prize money from the Right Livelihood Award. It is an operational foundation on the national and international level, engaged in developing and protecting national parks and biosphere reserves in the transformational countries of the former Eastern bloc (Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russia).

Germany's national natural heritage recognition and conservation have been the foundation's most important emphasis nationally. Further goals are the protection and development of wetlands, promoting nature conservation through scientific research, education and public relations and furthering international cooperation in nature conservation and ecology.

Culture and Education