Contrary to what James Lovelock and other miscellaneous hippies, crusties, and tree-huggers might tell you, if the Earth is a single interlocked self-aware lifeform - a Mother Earth, or a Gaia, to use a sickly phrase I have ever despised - She is probably not crying, screaming, or filled with anger and disappointment at Her wayward human sons. She is certainly not basically benevolent or healing.

Nope, she's probably cackling like a loony, bouncing off the walls, and contemplating how to chow down on the Great Red Spot of Jupiter with a nice Chianti and some fava beans.

Here's how I see it. Suppose that the Earth was a single, self-aware lifeform. What would it do all day? Spin round and orbit the Sun. Since it is incapable of movement, it can't dodge any asteroids or comets too well. In fact, the Earth is big enough that nothing could really hurt it (well, they could, but with some difficulty), and short of global thermonuclear war, it would be pretty tough to destroy all life on it. So all that remains is to play with its inhabitants just to prevent itself from going utterly insane.

Remember the omnipotent supercomputer AM in Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" at all? Because it had nothing else to do, and saw itself as a slave, a pawn, whose very creation was an ultimate act of torment, it killed all but five of the entire human population and repeatedly tortured them for its own amusement? Well think about Gaia as being like that. Except worse, because of the planet's own evolutionary origins, survival of the fittest, and all that. It probably sees humanity as a rival that must be landed on with both feet. If Gaia doesn't get hers, nobody else bloody will! Hence, earthquakes, volcanoes, motorway crashes, Hurricane Katrina. These are indeed the will of Gaia, but they're not punishing humanity, they're TORTURING it. She's just playing with us because it's mighty alone in space, and there's nothing else to fucking do! And as far as she is concerned, what do a few poxy mammals have to do with the price of ice-cream? She's 4.6 billion years old and to her, we don't matter a hill o' beans. Imagine if you were trapped alone, with no way out, and you knew that there was no way out, and you knew that you were the only one of your kind, and you were functionally immortal. You'd be at the least pretty pissed off and, at worst, mad as a lorry. You'd be furious. And who or what can you take it out on? The ugly little apes that inhabit your surface. That's who. Nobody important's gonna miss them. And since you are somewhat limited in your physical faculties, and are thus unable to tear off their faces and boil them in vats of piss while masturbating to horse porn and la-la-la-ing the theme tune from "Leisure Suit Larry," you can but send natural disasters.

Or look at it like this. When I was a wee lad, back when girls were all icky and stank and had the dreaded lurgie, I used to have a board game called "Crossbows and Catapults." In this, each player built castles out of precariously arranged plastic blocks, towers, and put little model soldiers atop the battlements, then took it in turns to fire rubber-band-powered ballistae and trebuchets and mangonels at them. I used to love this. I'd build things up then see how epicly I could demolish them. The little model soldiers don't matter, they're little model soldiers. I just need to avoid breaking them beyond repair, and in any event, there's more where that came from. Then I'd build the whole lot up again, and repeat. I loved that game. Then when we got a PC (a Pentium 66, whoo!) and a copy of SimCity 2000, I'd build my cities up to have a few million folks in them, then use the "priscilla" cheat to send natural disasters one after the other after the other and see what they all did down there. And it didn't matter if I wiped my city off the map, I could just reload, et voilá! 914,782 virtual people all back. No big deal.

THAT's how we are to Gaia. "As flies to wanton boys" etc. Are we insignificant gnats to her? Does the Pope cover up for nonces? Exactly.

So think about that the next time some no-account Islingtonite greenie tells you that Eyjafjallajokull was the wrath of Gaia. The ash cloud wasn't Mother Earth punishing everyone who works at Heathrow for polluting the atmosphere, it was Her way of torturing us because She is a psycho.