Hello, @Tom Ellis!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. And it's always nice to connect with another Buddhist person!
In this article, and in general, I define "caring" as an act of concious action that is beyond a stimulus-response action. That is what I consider the actions of the bacteria responding to the glucose gradient; it is just a series of biochemical responses to the glucose stimulus.
We could go down Richard Dawkins "Selfish Gene" path but that is waaaaay too complicated to discuss here in short reply to your comments.
And of course, I'm well acquainted with the Gaia theory. Again, I reject that the Earth conciously acts in a directed manner to do these things. Is an avalanche the result of a decision by the snow to move in such a way because a couple of mountaineers or snowboarders got on it at the wrong time? Or did the tsunami destroy a few towns and kill thousands of people because they weren't treating the ocean properly? Etc, etc....the list goes on and on.
I also like to consider the 2nd law of thermodynamics which states that for a spontaneous process, the entropy of the universe increases. There's no sense of caring, that's just the way it is! Living systems attempt to forestall this for the time they are alive but eventually they all die and adhere to this law.
I think maybe we'll have to agree to disagree on this and that's totally ok with me. Maybe in the far future I'll be scientifically proven wrong and some researcher will actually discover caring "emanations" from the earth and viruses and nucleic acids that can be charted and measured but until that time, I'll stay with my notion that the Earth doesn't care.
And that we do! ;-)