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Fuzzy think piece in the NY Times today here on the Tsunami and what it all means. A good discussion of how cataclysmic seismic events seem to come in clusters lies sandwiched between the contentious headline "The Year the Earth Fought Back" and some spurious riffing on the Gaia hypothesis, which holds that the entire world is a living organism.

The key word there is "living." To imply that the molten rock under our feet is an active (as in volitional) part of Gaia takes us a bit further back into animist mysticism than most of us should want to go. In other words, the headline and thesis might be intuitive if 100,000 had died as a result of disease or sudden release of organic chemicals into the air. That could indeed suggest that Gaia has "fought back" against our sloppy stewardship of her--that she is self-regulating to correct damage one of her component species causes.

Yet surely if Gaia exists it is in the community of living matter hugging an inhospitable ball of nickel-iron like a skin, not the ball itself. The ball's mistreatment of the skin may very well come in peristaltic spurts of volcanos and earthquakes, but the skin adjusts to that over the eons. Rock responds to the biosphere, too, of course, but lightly, in the form of erosion. To say that the biosphere sent a signal to the rocks to deform themselves and punish mankind is Old Testament hogwash--turning a nurturing mother back into the man with the spear.

- tom moody 12-29-2004 8:06 pm [link]