Human-caused environmental disasters have become common in the last 300 years(oil spills, over Deforestation, etc). But none have caused as much disaster as Mao Zedong’s “Four Pests Campaign.” The campaign was part of the Great Leap Forward in China which was implemented from 1958 to 1962. The campaign called for the extermination of rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows. The problem arose from the extermination of sparrows. Sparrows are a bird commonly found in china(well at least before 1958), and ate grain seed and fruit. The idea was that by killing the sparrows off, the nations agriculture would have higher yields. And so citizens of China shot the birds, destroyed their nests and eggs, and actually banged pots and pans so the sparrows wouldn’t have a chance to rest on tree branches. This banging of pots and pans made sparrows literally drop from the sky of exhaustion from constant flight. The Polish embassy in Beijing denied the Chinese request to enter to kill the birds that had found refuge there, and as a result the Chinese circled the embassy with drums. After 2 days of non stop drumming the poles had to use shovels to remove the dead sparrows.
Well as it turns out, sparrows don’t just eat fruits and seeds. They eat a large amounts of insects too, and as a result of their extermination insect populations like that of locusts exploded. And so, rice and grain yields fell significantly. This along with a drought and flooding from the Yellow River led to starvation. Mao didn’t want to admit to the world, that his nation was starving and rejected other nation’s offers of food. The famine(other factors also contributed) sadly resulted in the death of 30 million to 55 million people. Most say that the ecological unbalance caused by the Four Pests Campaign was the main reason behind this famine. And so, Mao’s plan to increase agricultural yields by killing sparrows, led to a famine that took 30 to 55 million lives. Lesson: Nature is not to be messed with.