The second case is located in Austria. In contrast to Ethiopia Austria’s GDP per capita is with 24,380 US$
(in current prices for 2001, the year of study) relatively high [38
]. The agricultural sector accounts for about 1.7% of national GDP [38
] and 6% of employment [48
]. Agriculture in Austria is characterized by small-scale farm operations and comparatively low-technical input as compared to other Central European land use systems. However, compared to Ethiopia it can be described as highly intensified with high input of fossil energy and machinery.
The case study itself takes us to a comparatively small village of about 60 people called Theyern. It is located in Lower Austria, ten kilometres from the next major city Krems (population approximately 20,000) and 15 km from the Lower Austrian state capital St. Pölten. The distance to Vienna, the capital of Austria, is around 50 km. The place itself is located within a landscape of gently rolling hills on a plateau on almost 400 m altitude. The basic structure of the village dates to a 13th century clearing island, which can still be seen on today’s aerial images (see Figure 4
). In the middle of the clearing is a compact settlement structure, surrounded by fields and finally surrounded by forest. The residential area covers 76 hectares and is dominated by orchards. This case study was carried out by means of qualitative and quantitative data collection [28
]. The research team consulted nearly all households, interviewed several representatives of the local council and the mayor of the municipality. All data refer to the year 2001.
5.1. Societal Stocks: People, Animals, Land and Artifacts
Of the 63 villagers at the time of the survey, around 13% are full-time farmers and 6% are part-time farmers. As their main source of income, the part-time farmers work in a beverage factory some ten kilometres from the village. A further 15% have full-time jobs as workers, in technical professions, in administration and as teachers, mainly in Krems and St. Pölten. Altogether, about a third of the inhabitants are employed. A quarter of the inhabitants are children or in training and another quarter pensioners. A little over 10% of the people are mainly concerned with household chores. This is a very typical profile for an industrialized society (the Austrian average for 2001 is 8% [49
]). A historic reconstruction of the village shows that around 1830, about 100 people lived there. For them, work in agriculture started in early childhood and continued all through life. Since 1830, the population size has dropped (due mainly to outmigration), but is now stable again (the number of inhabitants in 2016 [50
] was still the same as in 2001 [51
], indicating a population growth of zero %). The high level of mobility and the proximity to urban centres combined with a high quality of life in the countryside lead to the return of many inhabitants after their secondary, tertiary education or further trainings.
The cattle population is modest compared to the Bashkurit Valley: two cows, three horses, 25 pigs and 161 chickens in the entire village (0.1 cattle per resident, in Bashkurit Valley this is 1 cattle per person aged 15 or older). In contrast, possessions in Theyern are difficult to grasp due to the wide range and large number of artefacts. There are 55 buildings (17,000 tonnes of material in stock), 40 cars, six motorcycles and 35 tractors/combine harvesters/trucks (all vehicles together are 86 tonnes) and 286 larger household appliances (e.g., washing machines) (eight tonnes). There are an estimated 220 tonnes per capita of stock materials in buildings (compared to 2.4 tonnes per capita in the Bashkurit Valley) and about 1.5 tonnes per capita of vehicles.
5.2. Metabolic Flows of a Rural Village in an Industrial Society
An analysis of the material flows shows that 12 tonnes of biomass per person (Table 4
) are extracted from the local environment (the comparative figure for the Bashkurit Valley is 3.2 tonnes/capita), although only 12 of the 63 inhabitants are wholly or partly engaged in agriculture. The main harvest from agricultural land and forest is apples and pears (44%), maize (23%), grapes (13%) and fire wood (13%). Barley, wheat, sunflower, apricot, hay and straw account for less than two percent of the harvest.
Imports account for approximately 3.4 tonnes per person: 1.4 tonnes of biomass (food for the inhabitants’ own consumption, seeds and piglets), 1.4 tonnes per person of fossil fuels for the operation of the vehicles and to a lesser extent for heaters, and 600 kg per hectare for agricultural inputs such as fertilizers or agents for weed and pest control (in Bashkurit 35 kg per hectare). Due to accounting conventions, electricity is not considered in the material flows, but it constitutes a significant part of the energy balance (ten per cent of energy consumption).
Of the locally extracted twelve tonnes of material per person, more than eight tonnes are exported. The farms are not geared to self-sufficiency, but to the supply of the nearby urban centres. Many inns and large customers are supplied with pure high quality fruit juice from these farms. Corn is sold primarily through the close by cooperative warehouse, and the wine obtained from the grapes is marketed directly or to large customers via the farmers’ own sales channels. The four tonnes per person difference between extraction and export are partly residues from pressing fruit (mash) and partly self-supply. However, self-supply does not come from agriculture but in the form of fruits and vegetables from house gardens or extensive orchards behind the farm buildings, and as firewood from own forests, which is partly fired in modern heating systems.
5.3. Primary Energy, Societal Useful Energy and Human Labour
A high amount of human labour is performed in Theyern, but with 2.5 h per person and day this is by far not as much as in the Bashkurit Valley. In terms of time use, it is striking that different households in Theyern are characterized by very different rhythms. For example, there is a peasant couple with an agriculture-dominated and tightly organized daily routine, a family of seven with various professions, or a household with a relatively young pensioner. In addition, the high mobility is noticeable. In Theyern, around 9000 km per year are covered per person. This is roughly 10 times that of the kilometres per capita travelled in the Bashkurit valley. In view of the different travel speeds of walking (five kilometres per hour) and driving (50 km per hour), the average time required per person is about the same in Theyern and the Bashkurit valley (30 min per day and person).
In Theyern, an average of almost 2.5 h per day is spent on wage labour (in the Bashkurit Valley 5). This low number of labour hours per capita is above all since young and old people do work very little. The interviews in Theyern show that young people provide a very small labour time input to farming or other economic activities. The same applies to older persons who play workwise a minor role in agriculture but are important in the household chores. This can also be explained by the fact that in the years before the survey, many of the farms were converted from so-called mixed farms (coined by cattle, fields and extensive orchards) to specialized farms (fruit orchards) and therefore the experience of older farmers was not appropriate any longer. For example, an older farmer expressed in an interview the common norm in previous times that the good apples were selected for eating, the bad ones were sorted out to make juice. Today, however, the good apples are selected for juice making. He concluded that he does not want to join in in such practices which run counter to his inner understanding how things should be done well. Considering this withdrawal of older farmers from agricultural activities, the average 2.5 h per day can be regarded as a realistic estimate.
7 to 8% of the total primary energy is provided in the form of food (Table 5
). In relation to the primary energy spent, the useful energy of human labour is negligible (due to the low numbers of hours worked and the assumption that the physical work delivered per hour is in accordance to [20
] due to the used machinery much lower in industrial than in agrarian societies). The following energy flow calculations are done per inhabitant since (a) the purpose of a social system’s functioning ultimately is to reproduce a human population within a territory [26
], and (b) it is necessary for a meaningful comparison of different social systems with different population sizes.
Thus, per inhabitant, the few farm animals consume a slightly larger portion of biomass than humans. Farm animals do almost no work but are mostly used to produce food, which is only to a small extent consumed locally. Most the animal products are marketed and bring income. The work of the animals is only due to the horses, which a family keeps for riding in their free time. The useful energy is here the drive force provided during the rides. Primary energy consumption for the sum of privately and agriculturally used fleet of vehicles is the largest amount of Theyern’s total primary energy consumption. Due to the low conversion efficiency, however, this contributes only about 12% to the total useful energy consumed in Theyern. The room heat is next largest area of primary energy consumption. This is a result of the considerable amount of building stock which the residents in Theyern inhabit. Compared to Bashkurit, of course, the different climatic conditions are decisive (annual average temperature of Theyern about ten degrees Celsius, Bashkurit valley about 20 degrees Celsius), but also the different comfort requirements play a role as well as the limited capacity of households to acquire more fuels (local fuel is scarce and there are no heaters at all for burning fossil fuels).
In total, about 40% of the primary energy used is from renewable energy sources (biomass and hydroelectric power) and 60% from fossil energy. While in the Bashkurit Valley, 30% of the total useful energy was still provided by humans, the share in Theyern is diminishingly small (about 0.1%). The consumption of useful energy in agriculture is much higher compared to the Bashkurit valley. Farmers can dispose of approximately 5300 Megajoule of work per inhabitant of Theyern (including persons not working in agriculture). If we divide this useful energy only amongst persons involved in agriculture, this is 20,000 Megajoule per person. In the Bashkurit Valley, this is 420 Megajoule per person including all and 530 Megajoule per person engaged in agriculture.
Conversion efficiencies are very low for human labour and even lower for animal labour. This is not surprising since humans are well nourished but in this energy regime there is little need for their physical work capacity. The same applies for farm animals, which are kept for milk, eggs and meat and therefore do not provide useful energy. Technology using biomass, hydropower and fossil fuels has far higher conversion efficiencies. Amongst them drive force has the lowest due to low efficiencies of the combustion engines and losses during the supply chain. In the case of space heating, due to reasons based in the second law of thermodynamics, all forms of energy like mechanical, electrical or chemical can be completely converted into heat. This contrasts with other energy conversions and enables the highest efficiency in practice.
The conversion efficiency for lighting benefits from the fact that it is partly based on hydropower, which has lower losses during conversion and thermal power plants which partly make use of the heat for district heating. Altogether, the total conversion efficiency in Theyern is by a factor 10 higher than in the Bashkurit valley, due to both the higher share of fossil fuels in the energy mix and modern conversion technologies.