The Great Sparrow Campaign was the start of the greatest mass starvation in history

In 1958, Mao Zedong ordered all sparrows to be killed. As a direct result, millions of people starved to death.

History is littered with environmental disasters, but few compare to the one kicked off in 1958 in China. 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. 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.
How did this happen? It all started nine years after the Communist Party of China took power. That year Zedong initiated what he dubbed the Great Leap Forward, a massive social and economic campaign that, among many other things, turned farming into a collective, state-sponsored activity. Individual, private farming was banned as part of China’s transformation into a communist system.
One of Zedong’s first actions after collectivizing agriculture was probably intended to protect the farms. Sparrows, he was told, ate a lot of grain seeds, so Zedong ordered the people to go forth and kill all the sparrows. During the Great Sparrow Campaign, as it has been called, hundreds of millions of sparrows were killed, mostly because people chased them until the birds were so tired that they fell out of the sky. (The campaign was part of the broader Four Pests Campaign, which also targeted rats, flies and mosquitoes — all with the aim of improving human hygiene. )

Read the full story here.

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About jensera

Jennifer Harrington is a Toronto-based illustrator, writer and graphic designer. She illustrated the best-selling children’s book series 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' which includes the titles 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' 'The Night Before a Canadian Christmas' and 'Canadian Jingle Bells.' She is also the owner of JSH Graphics, a boutique graphic design agency that specializes in print and web advertising. With her latest project, Eco Books 4 Kids, Jennifer has partnered with illustrator Michael Arnott to create a series of ecologically-themed ebooks for children. Her next book, 'Spirit Bear,' is due for release in the Summer of 2013. Jennifer offers two different school presentations for her 'Moose in a Maple Tree' collection, an illustration demonstration and a Christmas concert series, which can be booked at www.amooseinamapletree.com. She will be taking bookings for school readings of 'Spirit Bear' beginning in October 2013.

One response to “The Great Sparrow Campaign was the start of the greatest mass starvation in history”

  1. SusieK says :

    Great piece! Similar one on the tenuous future of the humble little sparrow on OZY … so sad!! I have to admit that I don’t really pay attention to these little guys but it will be so sad to see them disappear! http://www.ozy.com/acumen/canary-in-the-coal-mine/1537.article

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