Anytime I begin a story with “Back in the 70’s”, my twenty-something daughter rolls her eyes in way that only a child thoroughly embarrassed by her mother can do.
But honestly, how can you quote the lyrics, “Lost in the Ozone Again” without a flashback to the 70’s and at least mentioning that infamous band “Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen”.
Those lyrics popped into my head the other day when I read about a recently released study of how air pollution is destroying the fragrance of flowering plants. A flower’s smell is made up of organic molecules, which can be easily be destroyed by the chemicals found in polluted air. Ozone, which is a byproduct of burning gasoline and coal, is one of those chemicals.
Scientists at the University of Virginia have studied the effects of air pollution on scent molecules. Their studies show that a floral scent that would normally travel 3,000 to 3,600 feet (about 2/3 of a mile) will only travel about 600-900 feet (between 1 and 2/10’s of a mile).
What this means is that it is more difficult for a bee to find the flower. Bees rely on both flower color (UV, blue, yellow and bright white) and smell (sweet) to locate flowers, which provide the bee with energy (from the sweet sugary nectar) and protein and vitamins (from the pollen). In turn, the bees help pollinate the flowers, which enables the flowers to produce seeds.
So in a very real sense, the bees become “lost in the ozone again”. I suppose that means we become “Airmen on a Lost Planet”? So who knew that Commander Cody was a prophet?
To learn more about the University of Virginia study on ozone and floral scent:
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