The arena is full of raving fans -an heterogeneous crowd of teens to forty somethings- and if it weren't for the fact that is 2pm on a weekday, you would easily think you were in a rock concert ready to party all night long. This is what happens when your name is Charly Alberti and you make a public appearance in Latin America to talk about climate change and sustainable growth for the region.
Charly is the legendary co-creator and drummer of Soda Stereo, the rock band that turned the continent upside down in the eighties and ever since. The band still had a large following even up to its dissolution in the late nineties and subsequent reunion in 2007. But he was never only a rock star, Alberti is a rare species of cool nerd, who has always had an eye for what is next. That is why in the nineties he was deeply inspired by the technological revolution taking place with the arrival of the internet and started a company called Cyber Relations (Cybrel) that was responsible for the
creation of URL Magazine, URL Records and a music platform widely used in the Spanish speaking world. But probably one of his most interesting achievements, at the time, was Steve Job's recognition of him as the only Latino "Apple Master".
However, his commitment to the environment started even before that. "I was one of the first artists who contacted Green Peace in the eighties to offer support in Argentina and the region. We were probably seen as just a bunch of crazy cats trying to save whales (laughs), because that was the extent of the message at the time!".
But it was years later, when fortune smiled on him and he got the chance to spend long periods of time in Patagonia, that he felt the urge to actually use all of his will power to revert the effects of climate change in the region. Soon after joining forces with the Argentine National Parks authority, he had the chance to connect with Al Gore and participated in his think tank workshops in Tennessee. "When I finally understood the magnitude of the situation, I initially hated myself for getting too involved, because I knew I wouldn't have peace from that moment on and I knew I
just had to do something".
That marked the birth of R21, his foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes a "Latin American re-evolution in the 21st century". The problem was joining Gore just wasn't enough and Charly has a penchant for doing things by himself. "I had the impression we needed our own project, because it is absolutely true that there are many well-intentioned foundations and causes in our continent, but there is also a poor unity of purpose and a lack of regional vision. With Al Gore, I had the opportunity of getting to know the inside of important climate organizations and I just discovered we needed to use and promote our own voice. At the same time, the reality is in our side of the Earth, a figure like Gore has limited reach and he even encounters some resistance because of his political background. That didn't help to expand the message up to a massive scale and that is in a nutshell why I am here today, as R21".
The marriage between rock stardom, tech know how and eco-love has proven to be an effective combination. Charly basically travels with a multimedia show, just as the Nobel Laureate Al Gore does, and he meets with people, organizations, corporate and political players wherever he goes, creating consciousness, establishing alliances, building commitment towards local and regional goals, launching programs with the private and the public sector. His presentation is as incendiary
as can be, it calls for a revolution "because we in Latin Americans are experts in the matter". It has a powerful accompanying iconography that includes an upside down continent because R21 is convinced that the problem presents an enormous opportunity to push the region towards a positive leadership position. "Many issues that were negative in our countries can be turned into positive change. For example, where there were not basic living conditions, we have the chance to build them right from the start, instead of having to change and undo everything like the first world. Many of our resources are intact, the world needs us and that is an opportunity we can't miss, to be the vanguard in saving the planet, our way".
The Latino community in the United States is part of the targeted audience for R21. Charly has regularly spent long periods of time working from San Francisco, Miami and New York in the past decade and believes in the growing power of Hispanics both to shape US policy and to influence the way Latin Americans see themselves in their respective countries of origin. That is why he is currently looking for alliances and support here as well. "Latinos (wherever they live) have to assume a leadership position in the 21st century because we are practically living the end of a
paradigm, the finish line of an economical and production system that is old and it is failing because of bad decisions. We made the huge mistake of giving value to non renewable resources, all that is finite has more value that what lasts forever and it doesn't have to be that way. We have our resources almost intact and if we change our values we will be able to re evolve in a way that can be extremely good for everyone. But it will not happen if we just do nothing. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just need to believe in it and follow our path, it is our responsibility. My message is: I am here ready to make it happen, are you?"
Today Alberti keeps that steady pace and impeccable sense of rhythm that sealed his fortune. This time, however, the task at hand is enormous and requires a lot of support to succeed. He loves the big audiences but he doesn't seem bothered when the turnout is small, "it reminds me of the origins of Soda, it wasn't always peaches and cream, but I know what you can achieve if you keep doing what you must, at least I can sleep with a clear conscience" and so he goes on and on with that rock and roll attitude, fearing nothing, wanting all... Rock on, Charly!
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