Even here, though, in the face of this truth, it’s hard to be humble. Our anthropocentric arrogance runs deep. From our schools and literature, from our academics and our poets and our priests, from everywhere across time and cultures, people are taught to believe that we are special, that humans are the pinnacle of nature’s creation, the center, and that the fate of Nature is in our powerful hands. We are taught that Nature is ours to use, and ours to protect, but ours.

 “Earth was given us as a garden, cradle for humanity, tree of life, and tree of knowledge placed for our discovery,” says a Unitarian Universalist hymn.

“The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the Earth he has given to mankind,” says Judaism’s Psalm 115:16.

Islam teaches that “Humanity is located at the axis and center of the cosmic milieu.”

The Christian God gave Adam and Eve “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the Earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

It’s understandable that our cultures and faith stories would see things this way. It is the nature of human cognition itself, after all, to perceive the world “out there” from in here, from where we stand. We make sense of everything relative to ourselves. That puts us at the center of our own existence, but also creates the sense that we are separate from everything else. There is you and there are others. There is the place you are in at any given moment and other places. There are your experiences and job and lifestyle and needs, and those of others. As Albert Einstein put it,

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ — a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”

This delusion allows modern environmental prophets the hypocrisy of proclaiming that humans are part of Nature and that we have to live that way, but also that there is Nature, and separately, there is us. As Bill McKibben put it in the book that vaulted him to wider renown, humans have caused The End of Nature. Not the “The Alteration of Nature” or “The Disruption of Nature” or even a plaintive lament for “The Suffering of Nature.” The END. McKibben wrote that humans have “ended nature as an independent force.” Which is poetic and appealing, but appallingly anthropocentric, to say nothing of scientifically naïve.

‘Natural’ Doesn’t Always Mean Good, Part One | Big Think.