China’s Worst Self-Inflicted Environmental Disaster: The Campaign to Wipe Out the Common Sparrow

This really happened. Oh me oh my.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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11 Responses to China’s Worst Self-Inflicted Environmental Disaster: The Campaign to Wipe Out the Common Sparrow

  1. Sadly, not many are aware (although it is improving now), of the balance of ecosystems, and that every organism within an ecosystem plays a role.
    Especially when organisms are viewed as pests, or when their habitat bumps into ours, decisions can be made which have far wider ranging consequences than was expected. This is partly why I study ecology, to get an understanding of the ecosystem as a whole, whether that be an agricultural ecosystem, a natural ecosystem, or even the ecosystems that exist alongside our buildings in cities.

  2. argylesock says:

    Indeed, your phrase ‘not many’ hits the truth. My first MSc (1989-1990) was in Ecology and I find that the same stereotypes and misunderstandngs come up now. There’s more labelling with preachy words like ‘Prove that you care about the environment!’ and of course, Mao was a dictator whose people were mostly uneducated. But I think the British public could be mobilised into something like his anti-sparrow campaign no matter how ill-advised.

  3. Daniel Digby says:

    It must have taken great insight for Chairman Mao to realize the threat posed to the Chinese people by sparrows.

    Please expand to whatever you find interesting. I was unaware that there were people as wise as James Watt under the Reagan administration, but it’s good to know that China was also forward-looking.

    • argylesock says:

      Snork! You are joking, aren’t you? I’ve just started following your blog The Infrequent Atheist and you seem to have a dry sense of humour. I like that in a blogger 🙂

  4. Isaac says:

    I just became aware of the four pests campaign in the documentary Waking the Green Tiger a few days ago. Just absolute sheer insanity.

  5. pcawdron says:

    Wow… talk about the law of unintended consequences…

    • argylesock says:

      Yes indeed. Talk about the Peters Principle too – people becoming more senior than their skills justify. Mao certainly overstepped his skills on this one, didn’t he?

  6. sharechair says:

    I read a (very good) book about this time in Chinese history called “Dreams of Joy” when the workers are ordered to kill the sparrows. But I had no idea of the consequences. Wow.

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