Maintaining Empathy in the Digital Age

Did anyone else hear Anna Maria Tremonti’s interview with author and environmentalist Diane Ackerman on CBC Radio’s “The Current” on October 2nd? 

Diane Ackerman is the author of The Human Age. In her interview with Anna, Diane gives insight into how, since its inception, the human race has been changing the natural environment.  But rather than painting a picture of defeat and destruction, Ackerman outlines some of the positive effects of change and the possibilities for improving the natural world. 

One of her comments made me think of our journey in Prairie Spruce:  

“About half of college students now are testing less empathic that their predecessors. It’s thought the contact being made through screens is accounting for this, as opposed to meeting face-to-face.”

Scientists are now documenting how technology and the use of electronic devices are changing the empathic nature of the human being.  Without face-to-face interaction, we are losing our ability to relate to one another on a personal level. 

We gain a lot from our digital toys (iPads, Netflix, Audible), communication tools (Facebook, FaceTime, Twitter) and our collaborative work tools (Wiggio, Google Docs). But it is undoubtedly through our social gatherings and meetings that we forge community and maintain our empathic connections to each other.  The members of Prairie Spruce Commons are building our empathetic character every time we meet!


Visiting Kindred Spirits at Wolf Willow Cohousing

Wolf Willow Cohousing
Photo Courtesy of Shannon Dyck

Two Sundays ago, several Prairie Spruce Commons members and guests travelled to Saskatoon to visit Wolf Willow Cohousing.  We were greeted warmly by the community, and welcomed into their common house and suites.  The common kitchen is both appealing and functional, and Prairie Spruce was immediately invited to use the space to prepare the potluck lunch.  After lunch, Christine from Wolf Willow and Ruth from Prairie Spruce co-chaired a question and answer session that both communities found to be informative.  This general meeting was followed by small group tours of the building.

We were so impressed!  Wolf Willow is built on a compact lot, but the use of building space and landscaping is very effective.  Our timing was just right to see the flowers and vegetables that the community grows around the building and even on the boulevard.  An outdoor eating area overlooks a pond and bridge.  It was interesting to learn about the design and construction of their sturdy metal fence, which looks great and was cost effective.    A nearby bike path is practical for bike traffic and long walks.   

Inside, we were all amazed at the use of windows to provide abundant natural light.  Not only are all those windows a stunning design feature, they are integral to the expansive feeling of the building.  It was reassuring to see just how spacious and comfortable a down-sized suite can be.  The use of wood in cupboards, doors, and other aspects of the building adds to its warmth and environmental impact.  We saw many examples of how the privacy and integrity of individual homes can co-exist with the participation and interaction found in the common spaces and overall building.

Having the opportunity to observe a functioning workshop, recycling area, garage, exercise room, craft room, laundry room, kitchen, and lounge was invaluable for a cohousing community that is in the planning stages.  We saw first-hand how the guest rooms can also house an accessible bathroom.  In fact, all the bathrooms in Wolf Willow are generously proportioned (and we were just a bit jealous!).  Distinctive personal touches have been added throughout the building with framed artwork, wall hangings, and tempting reading and conversation nooks.  There is no doubt that the members of this community have an artistic bent.

Our visit to Wolf Willow emphasized the benefits of living in a cohousing community.  A plus was discovering the fun that is in store when our two communities exchange visits in the years to come.


Walking the Neighbourhood – Wascana Park

Wascana Lake Close by Prairie Spruce Cohousing
Photo courtesy of Blake Handley on Flickr

When I was walking around Wascana Lake this morning, it occurred to me that we do not have to go far for truly beautiful scenery.  The lake was a glistening blue, and the ducks and geese were enjoying a lazy swim.   On the north side of the lake, the folks who were sitting on the benches had a peaceful view of blue sky and water framed by green trees.  Around on the south side, in front of the Legislative Buildings, the flower beds were at their best.

No need to drive miles for spectacular landscape when it is just a short walk from Badham Boulevard, summer or winter!


Walking the Neighbourhood – The Naked Bean

Sunday was a sultry humid summer day in Regina. We decided to stroll down Badham Boulevard from the future site of Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing to the Naked Bean Espresso Bar and Café. Our choice was iced tea sodas (berryberry and green tea), but there was also a brisk business in ice cream cones and floats today.

What a friendly, relaxing place to have your favourite tea or coffee, whether you are meeting friends or having quiet time on your own. Aren’t we lucky to have the Naked Bean in the Prairie Spruce neighbourhood!?