War does not determine who is right – only who is left – Bertrand Russell

Among the different ways to describe the terrible destruction posed by Hurricane Katrina, several officials from Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as some anchormen from the media, have been making comparisons between this natural disaster and the one unleashed by man.

The devastation, death and misery caused by a category 4 hurricane is undeniable. The extent of the damage is measured by hundreds of miles. The economic costs will be staggering. The loss of human life is always regrettable and in this case the numbers could climb into the thousands.

The real figures will not be known for sometime. Undoubtedly, it will surpass the deaths during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. But even considering a figure of 6 to 10 thousand, and that will hopefully be the maximum loss of life in this tragedy, there is no comparison with the immediate obliteration of more than 70,000 people in Hiroshima and some 40,000 in Nagasaki, with tens of thousands more to die in the aftermath.

The powerful tsunami that devastated parts of Indonesia and the adjacent nations last December killed approximately the same number of people lost in the two Japanese cities.

Let us not forget that the enormous power of a nuclear device demands a detonator equivalent to the energy generated by the atomic bombs used in 1945. If we are so speechless and numbed by the destruction caused by Katrina, what can we expect if our nightmares of a nuclear holocaust materialized?

We are witnessing the serious consequences caused by the hurricane, among them the possible death of a very special city, New Orleans. Chaos and lawlessness escalates in the “Big Easy.” Countless people are tired, hungry and desperate. Shooting at helicopters trying to rescue survivors has even occurred. The law of the jungle descends upon one of the most beloved American cities.

The fantasy world of Hollywood portrays disasters, space invasions and even nuclear wars. After the scenes of devastation, at the end, the sun shines again and a beautiful rainbow streams across the horizon. Life continues as usual.

This false idea of security is harbored by the government that has plans for the “survival and continuation of government” after a nuclear war or terrorist attack. If the situation in Louisiana and Mississippi were to get dangerously out of hand, what would be the reality of a world AFTER a nuclear holocaust?

Humans have perfected the art of killing. By our own inventions we could put an end to human existence and possible all other forms of life.

Nature will continue banging on us, sometimes badly but it does not threaten to annihilate its own creatures. Unless a big comet hits us and sends us into oblivion as happened with the dinosaurs, the nuclear threat will continue to be the Damocles sword hanging over our heads.

In the meantime, we could use the enormous resources currently going to preparations for nuclear war to make preparations against natural disasters and to help to repair the destruction caused by Katrina. Perhaps we can give New Orleans a new lease on life together with the other damaged areas.

Ruben Arvizu is director for Latin America of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation