Learning from beavers
Sustainability rather than activism: For the past 20 years, the Allianz Environmental Foundation has been committed to the protection of the environment, nature and landscapes. Many of their projects particularly prove themselves in crisis situations, such as the most recent flooding disaster.
Learning from the best: beavers are talented builders. They use dams to hold back water and thus ensure that their island dwellings are protected. They are, however, also clever enough to abandon their dams when heavy rain threatens to tear apart their forts.
“Instead of always building new dikes, in some areas, we should let the water regain its natural course.” That’s what Dr. Lutz Spandau, CEO of the Allianz Environmental Foundation, is calling for when it comes to the lessons learnt from the recent flooding disaster. “We need to get off floodplains and give back more space to nature.” He is aware that these statements are provocative. And what’s more: It is his declared intention to raise awareness of sustainable solutions - and thus to minimize the need to act in the event of a crisis.
Spandau has headed the Allianz Environmental Foundation for over twenty years. It is anything but a “green smokescreen” for the group, a point to which he attaches the greatest importance: “Settling claims in an emergency is one aspect. Reducing their occurrence as far as possible, by means of long-term prevention concepts and applied research, is the other.”
The foundation has made its mark with renaturalization projects. According to Spandau, in the Eastern states especially, projects were able to be carried out on how flood prevention can be operated successfully. Kühnauer Lake in eastern Germany seems to be a successful example of effective remediation with a major impact on flood prevention. In the 1990s the sludge was cleaned out of it, and it was disengaged from a big dam. “The economic benefit is priceless,” says the head of the Allianz Environmental Foundation.
When talking with Spandau, who also supervises the Allianz Endowed Chair for “Strategy and Management of Landscape Development” at the Technical University of Munich, the term “biodiversity” keeps cropping up. Why does he feel so strongly about the somewhat cumbersome word? “The presence of certain plant or animal species is essential for the integrity of an ecosystem - and thereby for the functioning of natural protection mechanisms.”
Thus, the flow rate of the water in the old Elde in the German states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg had been noticeably reduced by the reintroduction of otters, an endangered species. This in turn reduces the risk of the river overflowing in the event of heavy rain. “If we tackle the small streams, we will have a strong impact on the big rivers,” concludes Spandau - literally and figuratively speaking.
About the Allianz Environmental Foundation
On the occasion of its 100th anniversary, in 1990, Allianz SE (Allianz AG at that time) founded the Allianz Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, as it was then called. According to its first statute, the foundation was meant to help ensure a decent existence in a secure future. Since 2000, its name has been the Allianz Environmental Foundation.
The Environmental Foundation’s current focal points are: environment and climate protection, life in the city, sustainable regional development, biodiversity and environmental communication. The Allianz Environmental Foundation’s headquarters are at the Allianz Forum at Pariser Platz in Berlin.
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