Friday, March 15, 2013

The Four Pests Campaign

During the late 1950's Mao Zedong began the Four Pests Campaign to jump start his Great Leap Forward program.  The campaign was aimed at eradicating "pests" who robbed the people of the fruits of their labour.  Among the pests to be eliminated were mosquitoes, flies, rats and sparrows. The sparrows were regarded as the worst of the pests because they robbed the precious grain from the fields.  To start this program Mao ordered all the people across the PRC to kill the birds wherever they were seen.  To kill these small birds the people of China banged drums, climbed trees and buildings swinging with sticks and bats to prevent the birds from landing to rest.  Across China the small birds dropped from the sky due to exhaustion and were killed upon impact with the ground. Nests, eggs, and juvenile birds were destroyed across the country until the sparrow became nearly extinct.  Mao and the communist party believed as a result of the Four Pests Campaign there would be an increase in agricultural output.  However, it was realised far too late that the sparrows ate a wide variety of insects, including locust, in addition to the grain "stolen" from the fields.  Instead of the bountiful harvest Mao had expected, total crop failure resulted. Following the demise of the sparrows a huge number of locust appeared across China devastating crops for decades. The ecological disaster of the Four Pests Campaign resulted in a rise in insect population and a total loss of crops causing a famine in China that would result in the deaths of over 20 million people.

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