Airlines coming up with new ways to charge more

United Airlines passengers can expect to start shelling out an extra $5 if they opt to pay a $15 baggage charge at the airport check-in counter instead of online. But at least United doesn't charge for the simple act of checking in, which European discoun

My heart aches when I think of the environmental damage being done to the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, millions of people, trillions of animals and our entire planet because of the oil spill.

This is, without question, the nation's worst environmental disaster in our lifetime,and the world's smartest people still can't figure out how to stop it.

The frustration is agonizing.

With each passing hour, untold amounts of oil are spewing into the waters of the Gulf and have created a fatal flotilla the size of Kansas that wind and wave will carry to who knows where.

Already, the bayous are stained with a petroleum poultice that will strangle these life-sustaining estuaries for years to come.

While we are not directly impacted by BP's negligence and incompetence yet, we are not immune to the consequences.

Raise the flag

Globally, the overriding feeling for those living this nightmare is helplessness.

How can we help? We are a nation that springs into action when disaster strikes. We offer food to the hungry, build shelter for the homeless, send medical aid to the injured, raise prayers for the lost.

But in this case we are paralyzed. We cannot stop the leak. We cannot make the hurt go away.

What we can do, however, is raise awareness like a battle flag.

To that end, Andy Brack, a local activist, has created a website called BetterGulf.org designed to show and shame the world into ramping up our response to this disaster.

The site was launched last month to show a different photograph each day of the spill's far-reaching impact.

A thousand words

"If you believe a picture tells a thousand words, you'll love how our new photo blog captures the stories of people along the coast and how they're dealing with what's happening in the wake of the massive Gulf oil spill," Brack said.

Brack, who heads a group called The Center For A Better South, encourages people to send photos to the site that represent the damage being done. The site will feature a new photo each day.

His intent is to tell the story of the spill and its aftermath to show Southern lawmakers that the region needs to explore new energy policies, such as solar and wind, to help wean us from the need for more oil.

"This spill is a cataclysmic wake-up call for people to get off their couches and demand state lawmakers to do more to encourage alternate energy policies," Brack said.

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com or 937-5598 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Ken_Burger.