How can humans be both a part of nature and apart from nature?
What is nature? Is there anything that is not a part of nature? In our modern society we like to classify things as natural or man-made, thus we signify that things made by human beings are not a part of nature. Human made objects are considered to be outside of nature while bee-made objects such as honey or wax are considered to be inside of nature. This distinction has never made sense to me. While it is possible to create a system of typology in which human beings exist outside of nature, I completely reject the notion that in a universal sense, it is possible for humans or human activity to be anything other than a part of nature. Just as the honeycomb and the deer path are a part of nature, so are the superhighways, satellites, and plastics created by human beings.
I do not argue that all nature is good. Clearly a species of grazing animal arriving without the aid of human beings to an island where they soon obliterate a unique species of grass is not a good thing for the grass. I would argue that in the same sense, human beings pulling carbon from the depths of the earth and converting it into carbon that affects the atmosphere of the planet is not a good thing for many of the species involved (including humans), however, it is a part of nature.
Part of the reason that human beings have had such an adverse effect upon the planetary systems that they exist within is because humans have deluded themselves that they are not a part of nature. In this process, humans became convinced that the rules that apply to other systems within nature do not apply to human beings. Humans are no different in their destruction than chimpanzees with sticks who destroy anthills, it is simply a matter of the scale of destruction which sets us apart. We have used our complex brains to figure out how to exploit nature as if we exist outside of it rather than to figure out how to coexist with it from within.
We are as subject to the rules of nature as any other species on our planet. When it rains we get wet, when it is too cold we freeze, and when it is too hot we die. Our ability to deal with temperature is perhaps more complex than a dog that grows a thicker coat in winter and sheds its hair in summer, but again, it is a matter of scale. The coats we wear are not connected to our bodies but they are the extension of our bodies into the time and space determined by nature. We, as pointed out by Julian Steward, are subject to the complex cause and effect relationships of nature. Thus, it is impossible for human beings to exist outside of nature. A semantic argument may be able to be made, but so long as nature affects us and we affect it, we are a part of it. Our bodies and processes function within the cycling of decomposition. Within our bodies exist a multitude of organisms that we would perish without. There are also huge segments of nature that would perish without us fulfilling our part within the grand system. One could argue that these components that rely upon us are not natural, but since they are also dependent on the cause and effect of nature, this argument is moot.
The existence of culture, fire, rituals, or other human attributes do not set us apart from nature. They are a part of nature. Nature is rarely balanced. If it were, it would not be natural.