Any living organism can't avoid crises since they are a normal part of life. However, none have ever encountered a disaster on the level of that which fell upon the Chinese sparrows in 1958. The environmental crisis in question was not a natural one rather, it was a manmade one
In the entire history of sparrows around the world, they have never been hunted down as they were in China in 1958. Just over fifty years ago China was in the midst of a cultural revolution.
Instead of shifting its focus from heavy industry to consumer goods to create production incentives, Chairman Mao Zedong opted for a radical socialist campaign called the Great Leap Forward.
Mao's campaign was to rapidly increase China's industrial output by mobilizing the country's vast rural peasantry. The campaign was a massive series of plans designed to achieve rapid increases in China's industrial production. It was set in motion by the government with the intention that China would catch up with the rest of the civilized world.
The Great Leap Forward campaign
Before that time, China had been a mostly agrarian society. The Great Leap Forward was hoped to harness China's enormous man-power to surpass England and catch up to the United States in economic development and living standards within 15 years.
One of the most famous initiatives was the mass collectivization of agriculture. It included the creation of rural collectives of up to 5,000 families and initially yielded double the amount of crops and cotton. This initial success in 1958 led to ambitious goals for 1959 but the weather didn't cooperate. Even though fewer crops were harvested, rural officials overstated the amount of grain for fear of not meeting their quotas. This over-reporting led to misallocation of grain. The blame for the agricultural failure fell upon the animals.
War on sparrows
Result was Four Pests campaign in order to exterminate mosquitoes, flies, rats, and sparrows. The sparrows were accused of pecking away at the supplies in warehouses at an officially estimated rate of four pounds of grain per sparrow per year. In the cities and the outskirts, almost half of the labor force was mobilized into the anti-sparrow army.
Some people were responsible for trapping, others for poisoning or attacking the sparrows. Even the old people and the children were included to keep watch. The factories in the city committed themselves into the war effort even as they guaranteed that they would maintain production levels. In the parks, cemeteries and hot houses where there are fewer people around, 150 free-fire zones were set up for shooting the sparrows.
The masses of China were mobilized to eradicate the birds. Citizens took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare the birds from landing, so the sparrows were forced to keep flying until they dropped dead from fatigue. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed. Non-material rewards and recognition were offered to schools, work units and government agencies in accordance with the volume of pests they had killed.