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smoke in seattleToday we pulled into Seattle to do some wine tasting. Instead I’m sitting at home with burning eyes and scratchy throat researching N95 particle respirators. There are fires to the east in the Cascades, and fires to the north in British Columbia. Even Vancouver Island is ablaze. Hot temperatures, high pressure and wind blowing from the east funnel that smoke into the Seattle area. Yesterday, planes were grounded because of low visibility.

Last year the issue of how to get rid of smoke taint emerged as an important topic among winemakers, especially after the Napa/Sonoma fires at the end of harvest. This year its importance has skyrocketed since pre-harvest smoke might effect all the grapes in an exposed area.  And it is hard to find an area of the West that isn’t exposed to smoke this year. The consensus so far is that there is no way to get rid of unpleasant smoke and ash flavors without stripping the wine of other flavor components as well.

Of course the greatest tragedies are the lost lives and property. Given the past few summers, it looks like wildfires and smoke damage are now permanent features of life in the West as well as life in the wine business.

And of course we know what is stoking these fires and making them larger and more destructive. Anyone who thinks climate change has nothing to do with it is simply a fool.

2500 years ago, the Ancient Greeks, especially Aristotle, argued that it is rationality that distinguishes human beings from the rest of the plant and animal kingdom, which launched philosophy on its quest to find the rational core in most human practices. Our generation has the distinction of proving Aristotle wrong. It’s not rationality that distinguishes us; it is the capacity for self-destruction.

What would philosophy and indeed civilization be like today if, 2500 years ago, the Ancient Greeks had identified the capacity for self destruction as our distinguishing characteristic?

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