According to the Nobel Prize�winning Dutch chemist Paul J. Crutzen, we are now living in the anthropocene, his recently coined term for the present geological period, characterized by humanity’s effects on global climate and ecology. That humans are having a negative effect on the world’s climate is almost universally regarded as a fact in scientific circles, but global warming stubbornly remains in the realm of fantasy in some political and business circles. I won’t rehash the arguments here, since climate change is not my bailiwick. However, language change is what this column is all about, and the climate is generating a lot of linguistic heat.

For the symptoms of global warming, I love the phrase drunken trees, which refers to a stand of trees under which the perma­frost has melted. I’m not sure if these trees are considered to be ”drunk” because they have so much water beneath them as a result of the melting (causing them to ”drink to excess”) or because the melting causes the trees to tilt at various angles, making them appear inebriated. The latter seems more plausible to me.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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