Introducing Our Nature Heroes: Ulrich Eichelmann
Hello Secret Protectors!
We’re back with the latest installment of our Meet Our Nature Heroes Series!
You know by now that our Nature Heroes are both inspirational real-life Nature Protectors and also super cool characters in our letters so we’re excited to introduce you to another of these amazing people.
Today’s Nature Hero is Ulrich Eichelmann.
Ulli is CEO of RiverWatch, coordinator of the Blue Heart of Europe campaign & producer of the film Climate Crimes. He is an ecologist and conservationist who is dedicated to river conservation and restoration. In 2014 Ulli was awarded the Great Binding Prize for Nature Conservation. Ulli meets River and Tom in Letter 4, where he teaches them the Heron Game which all the members of Secret Protectors Club love to play whenever we are in nature! And he also introduces them to the beautiful Kingfisher.
Ulli has dedicated his life to being a Nature Protector and is an inspiration to all of us here at Secret Protectors Club. Here’s what he had to say when he sat down with our founder Masha:
Masha: Hi Ulli, tell our Nature Protectors a little bit about yourself.
Ulli: My name is Ulli Eichelmann, I am an ecologist or nature conservationist. I work for the protection of rivers.
I have the pleasure of doing what I love and even get paid for it – that’s cool.
And I am a river lover, so I always wanted to protect rivers against destruction. I wanted to protect rivers and the species that live there, so even when I was young I did that.
Masha: Ok, we ask everyone this question, how does nature remember you? This question is really about turning your perspective around and looking at the nature you have come into contact with in your life. Were you curious about nature as a child? Or disinterested as a teenager? Whatever answer comes up for you :)
Ulli: Oof, I think nature remembers me that I was always running in the river, so I guess from a perspective of a dragonfly or a kingfisher or even a fish, I was always the guy who was in the water, swimming in the water but also walking through the water or sitting right next to it and waiting for [creatures] to come by. I was the one who was turning around the stones to look at what's underneath [them] in the water, I was catching fish with my hands and releasing them again, I was climbing up the trees and jumping in the water, spending a lot of time there. Actually that’s how nature would remember me – the weird guy that is there, sometimes in the summer as a teenager.
I was every day in the river, every day.
Masha: That’s beautiful, you must’ve had so much fun! So now how do you remember nature?
Ulli: I mostly remember nature when I was a young boy, and a teenager maybe even, I was trying to be in nature as much as I can or as much as I could, I went to the rivers but also to meadows to see birds, I am actually in love with birds. So I was running around with binoculars trying to find birds early in the morning, rare species… And these were the most precious moments when I look back, when I was alone actually, walking through nature, walking up streams of streams and rivers and discovering things I had never seen before, like black storks or certain species of fish or even dragonflies I like.
These moments are the ones that burn themselves into your brain and they never go away.
Masha: How do you manage to personally connect with nature on a daily basis?
Ulli: I live in Vienna which is a big city with a lot of people but I’m lucky, I have a terrace and a little garden and I have a pool in the garden with dragonflies and some fish. I even created a little river so I also have fish in there – it’s great, it’s my daily oasis. Other than that, I try to go once per week into nature, there is a national park next to Vienna, so there I paddle a lot, I walk a lot. And even in Corona times, it was so crucial to get out and it was perfect for social distancing, you could walk alone in nature. I love it and I need it.
Masha: As a parent, do you experience challenges in passing on nature to your child?
Ulli: I have a daughter, she is 21 now. When she was a young, young girl I stayed with her a year on paternity leave and we went out into nature maybe a bit too much because I remember one day when she was sleeping in the car and we were driving to a river, she woke up and said, “Dad, I don’t want to see beavers AGAIN!” So maybe I did it a little bit too much but now she’s a normal young woman, not really interested in nature, she still likes it but she’s a city woman right now. The challenges are there because I did spend a lot of time with her in nature, we listened to birds, I explained what the bird is singing there, what species it is.
But growing up in this world it’s difficult to stay with nature at a certain age for sure.
Masha: Do you have any tips for other parents who want to create a closer connection to nature for their children?
Ulli: I think it's to spend time with kids but with kids in a group – that experience is much more intense for young people when they are together with their own agers. Also don’t [push] too much, that would be my advice.
We as parents, want to show children this and that, but just go into nature and let them play.
I playfully discovered nature as a young boy and I think that is it. Camp somewhere, spend some time, maybe 2 – 3 days so that the kids also get bored and they have to do something and they start using the environment and maybe forget about the mobile phones.
Masha: How would you envisage a world where all kids are Secret Protectors?
Ulli: If Secret Protectors, I hope they would go to their parents and tell them what’s going wrong or what they have seen and in the end,
I would hope that if all kids would be Secret Protectors, then nature would be better protected. I hope that the little boys and girls grow up and become professional nature conservationists to defend the nature we have.
Masha: And finally, why is Secret Protectors Club important to you?
I think the Secret Protectors Club is a great opportunity to work with kids in an age where they still can decide which way they go in life, what they are interested in or not. We need more people who care about nature, who care about birds, bugs, rivers, forests, meadows, grasslands, bushes, hedges, and that’s why – the more, the better!
💚 Support the Secret Protectors Club and Ulli's mission by pledging on our Kickstarter campaign - only 3 days to go!