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Analysis of Reuters' News on Ethanol




Brazil is often associated with football and samba now, but in the 19th century, Brazil was known for its sugar cane plantations. The plantations, especially in the northeaster regions of Brazil, were quite profitable. Thanks to these plantations, Portuguese people earned enormous money. After Brazil became independent, these plantations continued to be run by European people. However, the working conditions in these plantations were quite inadequate for enslaved people. They were working under terrible conditions. However, due to the public opinion and reactions from different countries, the workers working in these areas in the 20th century improved to some extent. 


However, after the 1980s, sugar cane was used to produce renewable energy called Ethanol. Therefore, sugar cane production started to be done intensively again. The workers here also had to work in bad conditions, just like the workers in the sugar cane plantations in the 19th century. This article will analyze Thomas Reuters Foundations' news about workers in sugar cane plantations. The situation of current workers and workers in sugar cane fields in the 19th century will be compared.


The narration style of the text is fascinating. Firstly, the reporters said that "It is backbreaking work." (Teixeira, Sherfinski 2021) Using "backbreaking" in this sentence has strengthened the meaning. "Work" may not be as impressive if used alone or with a weak adjective such as complex, but using a solid adjective like backbreaking may have strengthened the meaning. Moreover, Pedro says his salary is less than $7 a day, and in the rest of the sentence, the reporters said the amount of Brazilian minimum wage. If the minimum wage were not mentioned, we would not have understood that Pedro's salary was meager because maybe there is a high income of 7 dollars a day in our country. 


Hence, by using data, the reporters have provided the reader to understand the news more appropriately and accurately. Also, Pedro is hiding his real name. He thinks he can be fired from his job due to his statements. However, in the rest of the news, there are a lot of slave labor claims against Delta company. Despite these claims, the company can still sell Ethanol without any problems, so it is not afraid of the allegations. This situation shows power inequality. Besides, the inspector says, "they went at it like hungry dogs." (Teixeira, Sherfinski 2021) Workers are likened to animals by the inspector. Thus, the reader understands the workers are weaker. 


In addition, reporters said that slave labor is rescued in many parts of the text. This word is significant because people save another person in a bad situation. Here the workers are in a bad case, but they cannot escape from that situation. Someone has to come to save them. This shows the reader once again how power inequality and workers are weak. Namely, the text is very well prepared, and the reader can understand the conditions of workers.


Using a lot of photos while preparing this article strengthens the news's narrative power. In the first photo, Pedro is looking at the Saints. He prays every day before going to work. This situation tells us he was a religious person and how he endured the challenging act of working in the sugarcane plantation business. In the third, fourth, and sixth photos, we see the workers working in the field. These photos are chosen because most people don't know the sugarcane field and may not even know what sugarcane is, so the writers want to make the subject more concrete for the people. 


The shooting angles of the second, fifth, and thirteenth photographs are different. In other words, they show a larger area. Thus, the news reporters may have added these photos to the text, so the readers could understand how extensive the sugar plantations are. Therefore, many images in the news make the news look aesthetically beautiful, and the reader can understand the information better.


           With the industrial revolution, the amount of carbon released by humans into the atmosphere has increased considerably. In particular, coal and oil played a huge role in this situation. From the second half of the 20th century, this situation was noticed. The world is warmer now due to fossil fuels. Developed countries have committed to reducing their use of fossil fuels and not using them entirely shortly. They said they would use renewable energy sources instead of these fossil fuels. Solar, wind, and wave energy are the most well-known among these sources. Besides, Ethanol is used. Ethanol is renewable energy generally obtained using sugar cane or corn.


 Brazil is the country that produces the most sugar cane in the world, and therefore, Brazil has a large amount of Ethanol. It both exports and uses this Ethanol in the domestic market.

Nowadays, workers working in sugar cane fields to produce Ethanol are terrible, like workers in the 19th century in Brazil's sugar cane plantations. The Portuguese colonized Brazil. 


The Portuguese established many sugarcane plantations in Brazil. Portuguese merchants earned vast amounts of money thanks to these plantations. Also, the workers in these plantations were not native because the natives did not want to work under these harsh conditions. If the Portuguese forced them, they could flee to Brazil because this was their country, and they knew it very well. Also, most of the natives had died from diseases brought by the Europeans. Therefore, the Portuguese went to Africa to meet their labor needs. They bought enslaved people from there and brought them to Brazil. Africans worked in sugar plantations under challenging conditions. 


Dying while working on the Plantation was pretty commonplace for them. They worked in the fields for hours nonstop, and the Portuguese gave them little food or drink. However, slavery was abolished in the 19th century. Those Africans were no longer enslaved. They were given small plots of land to cultivate. They planted cash crops like coffee on these plots. Although coffee is a valuable product, the Africans did not make much money because they were not integrated into the global market. Traders or ex-masters sold the products they produced to the worldwide market. 


In addition, they had to give their ex-masters some of their income from the land. Thus, they had become semi-autonomous farmers. This entire system was called Casa Grande. However, the industry in the region began to develop. This situation affected sugar production because sugar could no longer be sold as raw materials but as a finished good. Hence, sugar would make more money. Therefore, the wealthy landowners took the small lands in their possession forcibly. They were once again landless. 


Furthermore, the sugar from Brazil plantations was exported directly to European countries in the 18th century. Sugar became a trendy food in Europe in the 18th century. Apart from the rich, even the middle class and lower class had access to sugar. However, enslaved Africans who produced sugar could not eat it. Hence, they did not know what sugar was. Also, sugar production had many stages; a different class of working people did each step. Each production process was different and unlike the other. Namely, enslaved people became alienated from their work. Probably none of them could recognize the finished good resulting from their production.


Moreover, In the 21st century, workers working in the sugar cane field in Brazil suffered the same fate as workers 200 years ago. Sugar cane is harvested to produce Ethanol in mostly northeastern parts of Brazil. Workers work six days a week under harsh conditions. They are not given water or food. Dying from dehydration while working is quite normal for them. Some workers are not even given a bed to sleep in. They sleep in hammocks. (McGrath 2013) The company that controls this production converts the sugarcane into Ethanol and then sells it to different countries. Namely, workers cannot use the substance they produce. Maybe they don't even know what it is, just like the African workers who worked in the sugar cane field 200 years ago.


As a result, sugar cane has been produced in Brazil since the 16th century. Portuguese made sugar cane, and they earned a lot of money thanks to this production. However, African workers working in the sugarcane fields were under awful conditions. Many died while working. Today, in Brazil, companies produce Ethanol from sugar cane. This situation once again led to the emergence of inequalities. Slave laborers work for hours without drinking water in these plantations for six days. Reuters, which reported this event, prepared excellent news. It concretely tells the readers the event, showing the working conditions in sugar cane plantations very well.




Höök, M., & Tang, X. (2013). Depletion of fossil fuels and anthropogenic climate change—a review. Energy Policy, 52, 797–809. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2012.10.046

McGrath, S. (2013). Fuelling Global Production Networks with Slave Labour?: Migrant sugar cane workers in the Brazilian Ethanol GPN. Geoforum, 44, 32–43. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2012.06.011

Mintz, S. W. (1985). Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin Books.

Scheper-Hughes, N. (2014). Death without weeping: The violence of everyday life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press. 

photo source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_ethanol


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