Services for:
Choose a category:
Choose a service:
Test out UPEI’s new website!
Our new is launching soon. Get a sneak peek now with this demo version.

Josh MacFadyen

Meet Joshua MacFadyen of the ACLC Teaching and Research Team

What is your experience as a scholar?

Canada is a modern industrial nation, but when I was born in rural Prince Edward Island, the farms on Canada's "food island" were neither "modern" nor "industrial." Many parts of the Atlantic region were only beginning to experience modern developments like the so-called Green Revolution in agriculture. The transition that has come to define the modern food system occurred here in a single generation. By the time I started my undergraduate studies at UPEI in 1999, only five percent of the province's population lived on farms. New large farming operations were already beginning to experience the benefits, and problems, of industrial-scale agriculture. New markets and increased yields helped farmers produce the largest potato crops in the Island's history, but it also produced massive soil erosion and new deforestation. I wanted to understand these transitions, and my research now examines how rural Canada entered what many historians and scientists call the Anthropocene - the first Epoch where human impacts will remain visible at the geological scale.

My research focuses on the history and current problems of food and energy systems in North America. A new set of tools in the digital humanities allows us to explore these problems and share the stories of community resilience and change. My research and teaching often use geospatial analysis, including historical GIS and other methods from environmental history, to study the changing roles of food and other forms of biomass energy in the Anthropocene. I have taught history and digital humanities at universities in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Arizona, and I welcome students in ACLC and related programs to work with me as we explore the emergence and impacts of modern societies.

What is your role within ACLC?

Food and energy transitions provide useful case studies with which to train students to take interdisciplinary approaches to modern problems. Students in my ACLC courses will learn how to contextualize and communicate about these and other critical global issues. They will also learn digital humanities skills that provide practical applications for community and work-place projects.

What do you like about the ACLC program?

I chose a humanities degree because I've always been interested in storytelling. Later in my academic career I realized that storytelling is more than an art; it's an essential way to address some of the greatest problems of our time. Solutions to global challenges require communicating at the local scale first. The humanities are thus a core part of complex problem solving, both in the local workplace and in the global community. Environmental history helps explain how we created the Anthropocene and what will happen as the rest of the world completes this social-ecological transition. In the ACLC program we train students to communicate complex concepts, lead in the community and the workplace, and ultimately help produce world-class solutions in Atlantic Canada.

Is there anything that you do outside of the university that influences what you do in the classroom?

I enjoy hiking, mountain biking, gardening, and many other outdoor activities, especially because they shape how we experience and think about the world around us.

For more information, visit

Contact UPEI