From 1958 to 1961, fifteen million people died in China due to a horrific drought, floods, and government stupidity. We can only hope that ‘Global Climate Disruption’ prevents this from happening again.
In 1960, at least some degree of drought and other bad weather affected 55 percent of cultivated land , while an estimated 60% of agricultural land received no rain at all. The Encyclopædia Britannica yearbooks from 1958 to 1962 also reported abnormal weather, followed by droughts and floods. This included 30 inches (760 mm) of rain in Hong Kong across five days in June 1959, part of a pattern that hit all of Southern China.
Along with collectivisation, the central Government decreed several changes in agricultural techniques based on the ideas of Ukrainian pseudo-scientist Trofim Lysenko. One of these ideas was close planting, whereby the density of seedlings was at first tripled and then doubled again. The theory was that plants of the same species would not compete with each other. In practice they did, which stunted growth and resulted in lower yields. Another policy was based on the ideas of Lysenko’s colleague Teventy Maltsev, who encouraged peasants across China to plow deeply into the soil (up to 1 or 2 meters). They believed the most fertile soil was deep in the earth, allowing extra strong root growth. However, useless rocks, soil, and sand were driven up instead, burying the topsoil.
These radical changes in farming organization coincided with adverse weather patterns including droughts and floods. In July 1959, the Yellow River flooded in East China. According to the Disaster Center, it directly killed, either through starvation from crop failure or drowning, an estimated 2 million people, while other areas were affected in other ways as well. It could be ranked as one of the deadliest natural disasters of the 20th century.