In reading about the bizarre life of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, I came across the story of how in 1958 he ordered the Chinese people to kill off all the sparrows in the land. Exterminate all the sparrows? Why? Were they “running dogs of capitalism” (as he liked to describe his political enemies)? No. Sparrows ate grain. So…as the “Great Helmsman” explained to the masses, in order to increase our grain production we need to get rid of sparrows.

Sounds like a joke, right? It was no joke. The 600 million Chinese (at that time) fanned out and killed millions of the poor little birds. Did that increase the grain supply? Not exactly.

What do sparrows eat? Bugs. Insects. They love to feast on them. I guess Mao the “Great Helmsman” didn’t think that if there was a sudden shortage of the little birds, then there would be a sudden explosion of insects to tear up and eat up the crops. (Tens of millions starved to death in that time from 1958-1961.) And China endured one of the greatest ecological disasters of its history…because of Mao Zedong.