An Oct. 25 letter writer argued for cane burning because it has existed for more than 100 years. Slavery existed for centuries, yet no rational person would bring it back.
Another argument is that volcanoes pollute the air. This is true, but misses the point. Humans choose what they burn. We don't control volcanic emissions, swamp gas, etc.
As to preserving jobs, history includes the loss of entire industries. Change can be scary and painful, but it is unavoidable.
There is one argument remaining - profit. If the value of the environment is ignored, and if the quality of life of air-breathers is ignored, then burning cane is the best method of maximizing profit. This begs the question: What are the numbers? If sugar cane is processed differently, how much less profit goes to the shareholders? All other considerations aside, if burning has the highest profitability then alternative techniques would likely employ more workers. New technologies require capital investment (and guts), but are a part of any company with long-term goals.
One final point: I remember the automobile industry crying in its beer about vehicle emission controls. These companies are still in business.
Now compare Los Angeles to Beijing. Quality of air and quality of life matter. It is for people using fact-based reason, not rhetoric, to decide the balance between pollution and profit.
My vote is to engineer a superior future, probably creating more jobs, with only the possibility of hurting the bottom line.