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!


Our Story


Prairie Spruce Summer BBQ
Summer BBQ

Seeking Creative Housing Options

Our story begins in the spring of 2011 when a group of people who recognized the value of community in their own lives and its benefits to the surrounding neighbourhood started looking at creative options for housing in Regina. On the suggestion of a local community organization, they met to discuss the cohousing concept and learned about a cohousing project that was being developed in Saskatoon. Two members of Wolf Willow Cohousing in Saskatoon were invited to speak at a later meeting in Regina. Following this meeting, discussions about cohousing began. Monthly meetings were held, community representatives were consulted, a mission statement was drafted, and information about the project was circulated through the wider community.

On December 12, 2011, Sheila Coles interviewed two members on CBC’s The Morning Edition. Many people who heard the interview attended the regular meeting that took place that evening. Enthusiasm grew, and the word spread.

The January 2012 meeting was pivotal. Twenty-seven people attended, several of whom now form the core of the present group. Plans were made to invite a cohousing consultant to Regina. The group also agreed to implement a social element in the form of potluck suppers before general meetings.

Prairie Spruce: What’s in a Name?

As part of our original visioning exercise, we drew pictures of people, sketched out homes and a spruce tree. Later, the group looked back on these pictures for inspiration for a name. The spruce tree “struck a chord” with the group. Spruce trees stay green and look alive year round. Also “green” can be associated with the sustainable green building aspect. Prairie seemed appropriate to help identify the location of the cohousing development. Commons refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. Thus Prairie Spruce Commons. Our story had a name.

Getting it Built

In May 2012, a weekend “Getting Your Community Built” workshop was held. Regular monthly potlucks and meetings continued through the next year. Committees were formed to build community, deal with legal and financial issues, search for land, and explore design ideas. By the end of the year, our name was registered and the incorporation process was underway.

Project managers Chris ScottHanson (author of The Cohousing Handbook) and Jasen Robillard of Connexus Cohousing Collaborative were contracted in June 2013 and given the task of finding land. We are currently working with Regina architects Pattison MGM and developer Fiorante Homes and Commercial Ltd.

A sense of rapport, spirit and hope continues to grow among project members in 2016 as we share meals and collaborate on final design details.

Cohousing is for me because I have always wanted to live in intentional community living lightly on the earth.      – Faye Huggins