EDITORIAL: Lemons into lemonade

We hate the cliché, but for want of a better expression, we are using the well-known, “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.” This maxim was recently put to good effect by Johanan Dujon, the Founder and Managing Director of Algas Organics Limited. Dujon is a St. Lucian national, but that is of no importance. What matters is that he saw an opportunity in the sargassum seaweed afflicting our beaches and seized the moment.

As we all know, that overly-abundant seaweed has spoiled some of our most beautiful shorelines – from Jabberwock to Half Moon Bay to St. James’ Club, and marine experts and environmentalists seem at a loss to explain this phenomenon. More importantly, they have yet to arrive at a solution. And a solution is needed as a matter of urgency. After all, our beaches are the linchpin of our tourism industry – we proudly proclaim that we are blessed with 365 beautiful beaches, but if this sargassum is not dealt with in a timely and efficacious manner, we may soon not be able to make that claim.

In any event, there is every reason to believe that this new species is upsetting the delicate ecological balance of our beaches and bays. Not to mention, as Dujon pointed out on OBSERVER AM, “Television sets and computers stopped working, and other metallic household appliances rusted, because decomposing sargassum seaweed emits hydrogen sulphide into the air. The chemical destroys electronics.”

This is clearly a curse, but Dujon used his ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills to turn it into a blessing of sorts, as he so passionately describes it. Apparently, the sargassum seaweed is rich in a substance that improves plant nutrient uptake. It is also rich in natural growth hormones and micronutrients. In other words, this sargassum is excellent fertiliser. Dujon recognised that fact and formed a company that is now employing 20 persons and selling fertiliser near and far. Of course, as Dujon’s company expands, and demand grows, there is every reason to believe that this pestilence will no longer be the scourge that it now is. Seems, out of an extremity, we are finding an opportunity, and we here at OBSERVER media salute this young entrepreneur and wish him every continued success.

Having said that, we are calling on our young men and women of vision here in Antigua to be the next Johanan Dujon – to think outside the box, and come up with solutions to many of the problems that seem to bedevil us. For example, is there an element that is in abundant supply here that we can put in the road mix to prevent potholes and the warping of our roads? Is there something that can be done to control or eliminate the Giant African Snail and the Cuban frog? Is there some good use for these pests? And, no, we are not suggesting that they be made a gourmet delicacy. After all, we will take a pass on the frogs’ legs which are a gastronomical treat in Montserrat, Dominica and the Southern United States.  And as for the Giant African Snail, we will leave that for the French as another variation of their famed l’escargot dish. Snails and frogs are an acquired taste. We will leave that to Anthony Bourdain, the television gourmand who travels to the far corners of the world sampling all manner of exotic foods.

Meanwhile, we ask of our brilliant students who are now returning to school, or have just left school, is there something that can be done to improve the efficiency of the reverse osmosis plants? Something to mitigate our chronic water situation? And what about adding something to the water in our reservoirs and ponds to reduce the rate of evaporation? And what about putting blades on the hundreds of sugar mills around our fair land to generate some kind of wind energy? After all, these mills were mostly located on high ground so that they could capture the prevailing winds and turn the rollers that crushed the sugar cane. Seems to us that the usefulness of those mills could come full circle after years of dormancy. What is remarkable about these suggestions is that, when someone finally makes it a reality, we usually smack our foreheads and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The point is that opportunity often stares us in the face, and we often fail to see it or seize it. Again, we challenge our students to think and dream big! Be the next Benjamin Franklin or the next George Washington Carver.

Interestingly, since we mentioned George Washington Carver, an extraordinary black inventor, we thought that we might mention a few more black inventors as a source of pride and inspiration to us all. So here goes: Frederick Jones invented the air conditioning unit, J Standard invented the refrigerator and J. Thomas, the lemon squeezer. Lewis Latimer gave us the electric lamp bulb, Thomas W. Stewart, the mop, J. L. Love, the pencil sharpener.

 A gentleman by the name of John Barr came up with the lawn mower; Richard Spikes, the automatic gear shift; GT Sampson, the clothes dryer and Charles Brookes, the street sweeper. Meanwhile, Alexander Miles invented the elevator, Imhotep, the stethoscope and Madame C J Walker, the straightening comb.

The fascinating thing about many of these inventions was that many of these black inventors came up with ways to make their labour easier. Talk about “Necessity being the mother of invention!” Talk about turning “lemons into lemonade!” The stories of these world-changing inventors and Johanan Dujon are instructive! 

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