Alter Media, though it didn’t have the name then, was a motley group of unkempt but informed young enthusiasts who dipped into their own pockets and used the little resources available to them (some even sold ancestral property), to print and distribute newsletters and little magazines about the dark clouds of environmental degradation advancing on virgin Kerala—in the name of development, tourism and globalisation. Their activism brought them invitations from other such groups in the country and they began stepping out of Kerala to spread the message. Some of their notable work has been against the firing range in Baliapal, Orissa, and during the march to save the Western Ghats led by noted environmentalist Claude Alvares.
Alter Media was born at a campfire one November night in 1987. "It was suggested by Alvares himself," says C.B. Anilkumar, one of the visible arms of the organisation. "He asked us why we weren’t selling books—those that spoke about and showed ways to adopt successful alternate lifestyles." It was Alvares who lent them books on credit and spurred them on to sell these, going door-to-door in Kerala. "We were allowed a small commission to support our activities which kept us going," says Anil with a sense of pride. Moving door-to-door with books that didn’t make sense to common folk like the farmers, craftsmen and tribals wasn’t an easy job. Especially when there was the stigma of being extremists or ex-Naxalites attached.