I painted the sparrows not because of their charm, but because I notice that they hardly occur in my environment anymore. Where I grew up sparrows were abundant, on the farms they were present in large numbers. They found enough grain, insects and were able to make their nests. If we don't soon give them back what we took from them, they will disappear forever.

I want to share with you a story that I heard during a trip through China. Environmental disasters are known to all of us, but few can compare to what happened in China between 1958 and 1962. Here's the story:

Mao Zedong, the leader of the People's Republic of China, launched several large-scale campaigns in an effort to modernize and improve life in China. The “Four Pests Campaign” was one of these drivers, part of the “Great Leap Forward” between 1958 and 1962. The extermination of all sparrows was one pillar of its grand campaign.

In 1958 he ordered that all sparrows in the country should be killed, he felt that China should do without "vermin" such as sparrows. Mao was convinced that the sparrows were eating too much grain, so he thought it would be a good idea to exterminate all of them. The poor sparrows were, in his opinion, an obstacle in “the expansion of the People's Republic of China”.

The population was mobilized to exterminate the birds. For this they used drums and flags to scare the birds so that they could no longer settle and had to keep flying. Finally, the sparrows fell down and died of exhaustion. All sparrows' nests were brutally demolished and they were massively shot out of the air. As a result, the sparrows in China were in danger of extinction.

However, this extermination led to a huge problem the following year. Agriculture was ravaged en masse by insect pests. In addition to some grain, sparrows also ate a lot of insects, including locusts. After the eradication campaign, the locusts lost their main predator. Locust populations grew like never before, eating everything they encountered in their path (including harvests). Grain production in most rural areas collapsed and the People's Republic fell victim to a terrible famine.

People ran out of food and even fell back on cannibalism. Thousands of people were killed for food and millions of people died of hunger. The official number of victims reported by the Chinese government was 15 million, later this turned out to be 3-5x higher. In the book “Tombstone” The great Chinese famine, Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng estimated the number of deaths at more than 36 million. His book was quickly banned in China, the "Great Famine" remains a taboo there.

In the end, Mao no longer directed his “four pests campaign” against the sparrows but now against bedbugs.


Maybe Mao wanted to control nature, but his disastrous policy led to an unprecedented famine. It is important that we all learn lessons from this.


Interesting movie material:

The Great Sparrow campaign documentary:

4 Pests Campaign:

When Sparrows Fall: China's Great Famine: