As for the modern secular objection to the Judeo-Christian notion of man as the pinnacle and purpose of nature, one can only say woe unto mankind if that objection prevails. When man is reduced to being part of the natural world, his status is reduced to that of a dolphin. It is one of the great ironies of the contemporary world that humanists render human life largely worthless while God-centered Jews and Christians render human life infinitely sacred. Man's worth is entirely dependent on a God-based view of the world. Without God, man is another part of the ecosystem, and often a lousy one at that.
So let's say what cannot be said in sophisticated company: Nature was created as the vehicle by which God created the human being, and in order to give emotional, aesthetic and biological sustenance to mankind. Nature in and of itself has no purpose without the existence of human beings to appreciate it. In the words of the Talmud, every person should look at the world and say, "The world was created for me."
Does this mean that the biblical view of nature gives man the right to pollute the earth or to abuse animals? Absolutely not. Abusing animals is forbidden in the Torah: The ban on eating the limb of a living animal, the ban on placing two animals of different sizes on the same yoke and the ban on working animals seven days a week are just a few examples. To cause gratuitous suffering to an animal is a grave sin. As for polluting the earth, this, too, is religiously prohibited. If the purpose of nature is to ennoble human life and to bear witness to God's magnificence, by what understanding of this concept can a religious person defend polluting nature?
We are indeed to be responsible stewards of nature, but for our sake, not its.