Joshua MacFadyen
Joshua MacFadyen
Associate Professor
Dean of Arts
SDU Main Building 302
Island Scholar:
Island Scholar Biography

Associate Professor; Canada Research Chair in Geospatial Humanities

BA (UPEI); MA (Waterloo); PhD (Guelph)

Dr. Joshua MacFadyen, UPEI’s current Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Geospatial Humanities, will investigate the social-ecological transitions that made modern agriculture in Canada. The energy transition from wood to coal—or from organic to mineral regimes—is widely considered a watershed moment in modern economic development. However, in Canada traditional energy carriers such as firewood and other biomass fuels persisted in most rural and some urban areas well into the twentieth century. The other large biomass energy flow was the feed metabolized by animals.

Farmers who replaced mixed animal husbandry with specialized operations using fossil-fuel based machinery and synthetic fertilizers decoupled the animal-land dynamic essential to mixed agriculture. Similarly, the biodiversity of traditional agroecosystems has declined with non-livestock animals such as bees, birds, and micro-organisms playing a less essential role in modern agriculture. One result of this decoupling is a general misunderstanding of the centrality of forests and animals and the important relationship between humans and non-human animals in all but the most recent decades. By combining quantitative census analysis and qualitative research in farm diaries and other sources, this project reveals the range of food, feed, and fuel energy strategies in Canada over the last 150 years, including the role that non-human animals played in those dynamics.

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