It began as Chairman Mao’s campaign to eradicate sparrows as ‘pests’,and led to in 45 million deaths in China’s Great Famine.That was the year that Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, decided that his country could do without pests like sparrows.
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The impact of this ill-conceived decision — along with many other policies he put in place — caused a domino effect of destruction. Three years later, as many as 45 million people were dead.
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People were mobilized to eradicate the birds. They used beating drums to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to fly until they died of exhaustion. People tore down sparrow nests and shot sparrows down from the sky. The result of the campaign was to push the birds close to extinction in China.
This lead to a problem the next year. It was noticed that insect infestation of crop fields had soared. Sparrows ate pests such as locusts, and after the campaign, the locusts lost their major predator.
This meant that killing the sparrows was counter-productive. The sparrows, it seemed, didn’t only eat grain seeds. They also ate insects.Maybe Mao Zedong wanted to conquer nature. However, his policies led to a famine in which millions of lives were lost.