December the 5th is World Soil Day; not just a celebration of one of our planet’s most important natural resources but also an attempt to bring to light many of the problems facing the purity of our soil in the 21st century.
Those responsible for organising the event need us to understand how reliant we are on soil, that it is a whole lot more than some mud and dirt. They want us all to understand that without soil there would be no plant-life on earth and without that none of us would be here. We would have no food to eat and no air to breath. To keep things really simple: without soil there would be no life outside of our oceans. If we did exist we’d have gills, fins and most likely be living under a rock.
Soil is the minerals from rocks and the organic matter from dead plants and animals. It is filled with bacteria that helps to recycle nitrogen and carbon, and the more soil we have the less carbon we have in our atmosphere. It contains the roots of trees and plants, along with fungi that acts as a transporter for nutrients, making it easier to decompose organic matter. Soil is its own eco-system that the entire world relies on, and the king of that complex universe is the most noble beast on earth. Forget your lions, elephants and giraffes. Forget your eagles, your horses and sure as heck make sure you forget your human beings. Up there at the top of the importance pyramid, alongside bees and plankton, you’ll find the humble, common earthworm.
Earthworms are often referred to endearingly as ‘ecosystem engineers’ because, through their own excretions, they can alter the chemical and biological properties of our soil. In turn this helps to give plants and other animals the nutrients they need from the soil to allow them to thrive. Darwin once said that:
“It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures.”
By giving the soil those added nutrients we reap the benefits of increased soil productivity, which would drop by a staggering 25-30% if we were to lose those “lowly organised creatures.”
Trish Fraser, a scientist who specialises in the study of soil has some important advice to give us, regarding those slimy creatures in our back gardens:
“The next time you see an earthworm struggling on the footpath, perhaps you will be kind to our little underground ally. Indeed, perhaps you will also think about the rest of the large army of earthworms working hard for us below the ground. Maybe then the important role that this underground army plays in our lives will be forgotten no more.”
The Importance of Soil
Soil provides us with more than just the clothes on our back, the food in our bellies and the air in out lungs. Soil also acts as a natural drainage system, absorbing water when it rains, helping to protect us from flooding. This system also helps to keep water clean and pure as the drainage acts a filter, with minerals and micro-organisms detoxifying the water. Think of soil as a sort of school janitor and cleaner all rolled into one. Like the janitors and cleaners in our school, soil will often not receive the praise it deserves because it does its job quietly, when no one is looking. Yet without it, the system would grind to a halt and our lives would be drowned in unspeakable misery.
Part of what makes soil so precious is the time it takes to form. It can take up to 1000 years to make just 1cm of top soil. In this current world of quick fix, instant gratification that level of forward planning seems unthinkable. Given that most political parties will campaign for elections every 4 to 5 years the concept that any government would put a thousand-year project on their to-do-list is quite simply laughable.
Yet the dangers are all there. Urbanisation, exponential population growth and increased pollution all mean that the soil we need for our very existence is becoming more and more threatened every day.
The degradation of soil in Europe is becoming a growing concern for scientists and is now recognised as a serious problem that we need to start dealing with.
A study by RECARE (an organisation set up to prevent and remediate degradation of soils in Europe through Land Care) has revealed what scientists within the organisation believe are the top threats to soil degradation in Europe today, and there are a staggering number of them:
Soil erosion is predominately caused by rainfall creating large amounts of fast-moving water that can sweep over and through the soil. This can lead to the loss of soil fertility and the destruction of the infrastructure of the soil, water pollution and the sedimentation of water reservoirs.
Soil Salinization occurs when too much salt, usually caused by rising sea levels, affects the productivity of soil, or in more extreme cases destroys all living organisms within it.
This is exactly what it sounds like and with the industrialisation of farming has become an increasing problem since WW2. Compacting soil will damage its productivity and is more common now because of our reliance on heavy machinery, such as combine harvesters.
This one is simple to explain as it is the term given for soil that has been built upon. It goes without saying that a shopping centre will get in the way of soil’s productivity.
Along with too much water, not enough water will obviously have harmful consequences for the productivity of soil.
There can be little doubt that the single greatest cause of soil contamination is human activity. Along with soil sealing, contamination is a problem that caused, almost exclusively, by our own hands.
RECARE have produced the following numbers highlighting the primary causes of soil contamination:
“Municipal and industrial wastes contribute most to soil contamination (37%), followed by the industrial/commercial sector (33%). Mineral oil and heavy metals are the main contaminants contributing around 60% to soil contamination. In terms of budget, the management of contaminated sites is estimated to cost around 6 billion Euros (€) annually.”
Essentially, if heavy industry exists, it is very likely that soil contamination will also be present and as the world’s population continues to rise soil degradation will increase exponentially.
This year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are adopting the slogan “Be the Solution to Soil Pollution.” Their goal, as it is every 5th of December, is to raise awareness on the subject of soil degradation and to highlight just how important soil is. To help matters along they have provided these 4 facts about soil:
• “Soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help us meet the challenges of a changing climate
• 815 million people are food insecure and 2 billion people are nutritionally insecure, but we can mitigate this through soil.
• 95% of our food comes from soil
• 33% of our global soils are already degraded”
That last number increases the importance of all the other numbers. We have to ask ourselves, if one third of all the soil on earth is already degraded, how long will it be until we consider this a crisis? How long will it be until we do something about it?
Soil and Slots
There are obviously no slots games that are just about soil and I’m gutted to note that there are no slots games that are about worms either. However, there are games that celebrate the wonders of nature, with some games celebrating it more imaginatively than others.
The games we are going to look at will be predominantly set in woods or forests and some of the creatures will be very real, whilst others only exist in a world of our imagination, one where our soil has been given an extra sprinkling of magic dust.
It is not very often that I get excited about a game that only has the one payline, but Enchanted Woods is a little bit different to most other slots games out there just now. First of all, it looks really good, you can tell that the soil in these woods if filled with worms and a little bit of something extra special. The symbols look good, comprising all the woodland enchanted creatures that you can think of. There are gnomes, fairies, goblins, leprechauns and who knows what else out there. This is also a game that involves a tiny bit of strategy, something that is becoming more and more common in modern slots games and something that we believe adds an extra dash of playaility. We loved this game so much when it first came out that we gave it all the marks we could and even now, 6 six years down the line, we think this game has what it takes to grab your attention for a while.
Play the game here for free
Jungle Spirit – The Call of the Wild
What better way to celebrate the diversities of planet earth’s complex echo-systems than a walk through the jungle? The complexities above the surface mean it is inevitable that underneath that forest floor is a wild, buzzing hive of nutrients and bacteria, breathing new life into the trees that tower above it and root within it. Jungle Spirit has all the jungle based suspects you’d want to see, from poisonous snakes, to enormous elephants and snapping crocodiles. It is a game that makes the most of its setting, offering the player a sumptuous background and the most vibrant symbols of the jungle. Spores float from exotic fauna and sprinkle their way across the reels, in a game that will hold your gaze much longer than your average slots game.
Play the game here for free
It says “Books” not “Book” officer, so you can’t touch me! I doubt that neither Kipling, nor Disney would have signed off on this idea but Yggdrasil have done an incredible job with what is most definitely not “The Jungle Book”. This game makes it onto our list for the same reasons that “Jungle Spirit” did and because I hate having a list without a Yggdrasil game in there somewhere. These guys are, in my opinion, the best in the business right now. You just know if Yggdrasil is connected to a game that you are in for a visual treat and a tonne of different special features. In this game there is a young boy, a bear, a panther, a snake and a tiger who make up the main characters, all of them looking resplendent and filled with the health and vigour that only a diverse eco-system can offer. This game has more than just the bare necessities; in fact when you play it you’ll feel like you are the king of the spinners.
Play the game here for free
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