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July 19, 2012

The Four Pests Campaign and China's Genocide Against Sparrows

In 1958 China nearly drove the sparrow to extinction in a misguided attempt to prevent the bird from eating grain seeds. Then they found out that a world without sparrows is a world overrun with locusts. China’s Worst Self-Inflicted Environmental Disaster: The Campaign to Wipe Out the Common Sparrow
Chinese leader Mao Zedong initiated the Four Pests campaign after reaching the conclusion that several blights needed to be exterminated — namely mosquitoes, flies, rats, and sparrows. While many people nowadays would regard tampering with the ecosystem in such a radical way as a shockingly irresponsible idea, this was a classic case of something appearing like a good idea at the time. And according to environmental activist Dai Qing, "Mao knew nothing about animals. He didn't want to discuss his plan or listen to experts. He just decided that the 'four pests' should be killed." . . . Now, while the Chinese citizens were called upon to wage war against all four of these pests, the government was particularly annoyed by the sparrow, or more specifically, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. The Chinese were having a rough go of it as it was, adapting to collectivization and the re-invention of farming, so they felt particularly victimized by this bird which had a particular fondness for eating grain seeds. Chinese scientists had calculated that each sparrow consumed 4.5kg of grain each year — and that for every million sparrows killed, there would be food for 60,000 people. Armed with this information, Mao launched the Great Sparrow Campaign to address the problem. "Total war" To accomplish this task, Chinese citizens were mobilized in massive numbers to eradicate the birds by forcing them to fly until they fell from exhaustion. The Chinese people took to the streets clanging their pots and pans or beating drums to terrorize the birds and prevent them from landing. Nests were torn down, eggs were broken, chicks killed, and sparrows shot down from the sky. Experts estimate that hundreds of millions of sparrows were killed as part of the campaign. . . .

July 17, 2012

Shackleton's bravado, incompetence, whisky, and cocaine

The Four Horseman of that particular Apocalypse. Drinking Ernest Shackleton’s...

July 10, 2012

The A to Z of unusual words

These are all fun. And have lovely accompanying illustrations. A-Z of Unusual Words
Hamartia The character flaw or error of a tragic hero that leads to his downfall.

Attention All Steampunks & Booknerds: All 111 Volumes(!!!) of Queen Victoria's Diary Are Online NOW!

Free for your perusal until the end of July. Queen...