By Mikail Yasir
9th grade, New Tech High @ Coppell, TX

With lines from "Cost of a KitKat: Big Brands Leave Sugar Farmers at the Mercy of Climate Extremes" by Arvind Shukla, Gurman Bhatia, Isabelle Gerretsen, Mayank Aggarwal, and Meenal Upreti, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

World's largest food and beverage company
2,000 brands from A-Z—


Fancy Feast

Hsu Fu Chi

Labor markets from the Arabian to the Caribbean Sea
Competing with the local petite bourgeoisie
Extracting resources like they extract labor
A capitalist market share would-be savior

Steal, exploit, enslave
Disorder: the real export this system craves
Achilles heel to the system—we contribute.
Automobiles, meals, and steel—it unevenly distributes.
Cruelty not in spite of, but because
Not fortuity, but a root cause

The system’s flaws
                 Dig in their claws
                                                   Unhinge their jaws
And consume everything in sight
Its flaws
                 Eject laws
                                  That cause
                                                   Capital to pause

Not a bug but a feature
Nestle’s something of a creature
Capital’s disrupted ecosystem
Runs rampant reigning in Uttar Pradesh’s sugar workers’ late payments,
                                                                                                                                              climate extremes,
                                                                                                                                                                     and enslavement

The Chief Executive of fair trade says
‘Exploitation breeds exploitation’
Unfair wages, late-stage capitalist traces
It stumbles and fumbles in phases
Putting communities up in blazes
The anguish of our ages

Nestle leaves people at the mercy of climate extremes
To which they contribute
118.68 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2021,
More than entire countries like the Netherlands, Austria, or Libya
The major exporters of emissions, not just nations—
                                                                                        but multinational corporations.

A billion-dollar industry unable to fulfill basic needs
Basic pay, timely payments, and helping climate-based losses
Governments are left to foot the bill to reform,
A small labour contractor from Ambajogai in Maharashtra,
told Climate Home that the latest reform scheme “is not functional yet.”
What to expect in a system based on multinational debt?

But we don't dare to make the systemic changes needed
How should we, when we benefit from that instability ‘we’ seeded?

So keep it going
                Let’s keep running, reforming, while the wheels
                                                                of capital keep turning
                                                                       Leave the stove running
                                                               the faucet on, and let us be surprised
                 When we find the world around us flooding and burning,

                                                                             Or should we turn the other way

                                                                                           Make another way

                                                                                           Turn on the brakes

                                                             And break from the fate of this system we hate?

Mikail Yasir is a rising sophomore at Newtech High @ Coppell in Texas. He's ambitious in the pursuit of exploring new ideas and frameworks through art like this. He hopes a piece such as this can resonate with others and push to highlight systemic issues faced by people globally, despite how much of a shift it may take to change these systems. He's excited to work with the Pulitzer Center to put these global issues into a framework in which they may be one day reconciled.

Read more winning entries from the 2023 Fighting Words Poetry Contest.