My heart beats thousands of times in one day, but it’s only when blood is roaring in my ears that I am acutely aware of its existence within my chest. 

There are countless other parts of myself that I am only conscious of in brief intervals, yet I exist because they work simultaneously without my knowledge. Everyone and everything is like this —all functioning in seismic systems composed of the most intrinsic details. 

This is why I am studying civil engineering. Civil engineers set up and sustain the physical elements of our civilizations. Much like a heartbeat, you might not notice roads, wastewater systems, dams, buildings and other parts of everyday life until the odd moment their existence hums loudly in your ear. I see these things as the silent movers of life, directing human civilization by changing and maintaining our environments  —environments not just made up of concrete. It’s largely made of forests, wetlands, grasslands and mountains. My dream is to weave human life and our natural world into a garden of co-existence.

If you have ever taken honors Texts and Critics here at MSU, you might have read excerpts from Michael Pollen’s book, “The Idea of a Garden.” In this book, Pollen debates that natural areas should be tended to as “gardens,'' rather than left “wild,” and completely untouched by humans to any degree. His words resonated with me and directed my thoughts toward how we treat cities in relation to our environment.

I am sick of pretending that cities and nature are separate and apart, that urban areas are doomed to have sparse parks and backyards. Instead, I dream of high-rise buildings dripping with greenery, boulevards enshrined with native trees and wetlands that halt floods and filter our water. I dream of cities where the infrastructure works with the ecosystems that existed before it.

I want to remake our cities to handle our rising populations and limited resources. I want to create places where sustainable life exists as subconsciously as a heartbeat. 

I want us to start building up. Although I believe we should, and can, make cities into gardens, it does not mean we need more space. The Bozeman Community Plan of 2020 said that Bozeman “has expanded by 275% over the past 50 years,” with a 220% increase in population in the last 30 years. It’s only projected to get bigger, as one of the fastest growing micropolitan areas in the West. One of the easiest ways to decrease the amount of land we develop on will be to build taller buildings.

It’s important to build up in order to preserve our natural areas. Making our cities into gardens requires preserving the land we haven’t yet developed on, as well as implementing natural ecosystems into the areas we already have.

Although I have these beautiful dreams, reality is much harder to deal with. Things are not simple when you have to confront so many systems. Money, people, resources and history are all elements in decision making.

Despite this, I will continue to dream and learn ways to make my dream a reality. There are many inspiring, knowledgeable people working toward the same dream and I can’t wait to join them.