Published by

Martin C. Fredricks IV

Martin C. “Red” Fredricks Martin is a husband, father of three, small business owner and writer. His op-eds, columns and blog posts have tackled everything from condoms in university residence hall bathrooms to application of the death penalty, the warmth of a North Dakota blizzard to robots that play soccer, the curse of Christmas present to an unexpected meeting on the way home from the Winter Olympics. Martin’s past experience includes a stint as editor of a weekly newspaper, a strategic planner and copywriter at a couple of advertising firms, a constituent service rep on a U.S. senator’s staff and a senior writer and editor at a university. He can be reached at

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Sound Of Freedom

It’s been 26 years and 29 days since I wrote this piece. I was fresh out of North Dakota State University and in my first “real” job — editor of The Courant, the “Official Newspaper of Bottineau County, N.D.” I think of it every year about this time. I’ve always thought it’s not half-bad. I hope you do, too.

For the past two weeks or so, I have been waking at night with shivers running up and down my spine. These shivers have little to do with the weather.

I’m a fairly light sleeper, one of those people who seldom wakes up without knowing what day it is and what needs to be done before the day is done.

In the past 2½ weeks, a faint but invigorating sound has drawn me out of dreamland and into the yard before trying to get back to sleep. Great writers have tried to capture the awe-inspiring quality that this sound can have on humans. It is the sound of freedom and struggle and the strength to overcome.

It is the sound of the southbound geese, calling out to one another in the moonlight as they continue their fall migration.

It is a sound that brings to the surface in me a desire to fly, to be free of all the earthly worries to which we humans are bound.


I remember being in college, lost in the study of Russian history, worried about an exam I had the next day, the homework I needed to accomplish regardless of a full weekend at work and a phone bill that needed paying. I was at my desk, completely absorbed in a textbook when a faint sound drifted through the slightly open window.

My head came up and I started to rise out of my chair. Then I thought better of it, knowing the traffic that screeched past on the street in front of my house would drown out that sound. I figured it was my imagination, and returned to Trotsky, Lenin and the first Russian Revolution of this century.

A few minutes later, I heard the sound again, this time more distinct, and I knew I wasn’t hearing things. I leaped out of my chair and started searching under piles of test-week dirty laundry for some shoes, any shoes. Finally, I realized I didn’t have time to waste on shoes; I ran out the door and into the backyard in my bare feet.

I could still hear the geese but couldn’t see them. My yard in Fargo was squashed between two other houses and a one-story garage. I scaled the garage in a matter of seconds, hoping I wouldn’t be too late.

At the top, I was greeted by 30 greater Canada geese, honkers, flying across the backdrop of a splendid North Dakota autumn sunset of reds, pinks, oranges and blues. I laughed exultantly and waved a clinched fist at the squawking birds, hoping they might raise a call for me.

I watched as they flew out of sight, a bare-footed, grinning idiot, thinking only of the strength it must take to fly thousands of miles, and the freedom one must have to do so. And for the thousandth time, I wished I was one of them.

They left me there on top of a crumbling garage with my useless wish, cursing myself for not bringing my camera. I laughed again, then climbed back down to the yard and my trivial problems.

I didn’t return to the Russian Revolution. The geese had started my blood pumping and I couldn’t concentrate. I spent the evening writing and thinking about other good memories the geese have given me. I went to bed early, completely happy and relaxed.

The next day I took that exam, and I probably did better than I would have had I stressed out over the books all night.


I am a hunter, but that has little bearing on the love I have for the geese and the joyous feeling they give me each time they lure me out of sleep or self-concern. They remind me that we live in a state where the big birds can stop to rest and refuel, and the fact that they fly thousands of miles is a reminder that we can do anything if we have the determination and the strength to try.

Except fly, of course.


“For long spells they would fly in silence, but most often they maintained noisy communication, arguing, protesting, exulting; at night, especially, they uttered cries which echoed forever in the memories of men who heard them drifting down through the frosty air of autumn….”  — James A. Michener, Chesapeake, “Voyage Eight: 1822”

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Let’s Not Allow A Refinery Near Theodore Roosevelt National Park

I grew up in Medora, N.D. It was the 1970s, about the time a previous oil boom was running full-tilt in the western part of the state.

The air was still fresh and clean, whitetails walked down an empty Main Street in the early evenings this time of year, and the 100 or so souls who called the place home year-round enjoyed the post-tourist peace and quiet.

My folks often took visiting relatives into Theodore Roosevelt National Park to hopefully glimpse wild horses, maybe come upon a buffalo and definitely to check out the view, which on clear days could stretch all the way to Dickinson and beyond.

Out that way is Fryburg, where I went to school in the fifth grade because otherwise I would have been the only boy in grades five through eight in Medora’s two-room schoolhouse. A few miles farther east is Belfield, where Medora’s older kids attended high school. It also had the nearest movie theater, where I saw “The Apple Dumpling Gang” for the first time.

Fresh and clean

Not much is the same today. Medora is almost completely commercialized, the two-room schoolhouse is long gone, and so is the pristine view of the Badlands from North Dakota’s only national park. One can stand on the highest buttes and see … oil rigs.

Now comes Meridian Energy Group. To add insult to injury, this bunch of out-of-staters wants to build an oil refinery just three miles from the southeast corner of the park’s South Unit near Fryburg. Plans are for a huge industrial complex between there and Belfield, in full view of Interstate 94.

The Davis refinery would have a 55,000-barrel (2.3-million-gallon) per-day capacity. The facility and its plume would be painfully visible from the park, where thousands of visitors would otherwise enjoy a clear view of the surrounding Badlands.

In 2016, 750,000 people visited the park and spent nearly $50 million. But it isn’t a state gem just because of the economic boon; it’s also because of the park’s rich history, rugged terrain and breathtaking vistas.

Fresh and clean

The N.D. Department of Health and the National Park Service are currently reviewing an air permit application from Meridian, and the North Dakota Water Commission is reviewing a water use permit. Meridian is disputing the need for a site compatibility permit from the Public Service Commission, even though it’s required by state law given the proposed facility’s capacity.

The National Parks Conservation Association recently commissioned an independent analysis that found the proposed refinery would be “… a major source of pollution that would release substantial amounts of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants — all harmful to human and ecological health.”

Sound good to you? Not to me, either. I’m guessing the whitetail, wild horses and buffalo would object, too.

Fresh and clean

To the extent we still can, let’s keep the air and views of Theodore Roosevelt National Park that way.

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Fusion For Caring

Invaluable. That’s the Real Answer, Mr. Commissioner; A Fusion of Smiles, Languages And Colors

No matter how you slice it, surgery is no fun. More to the point, it’s no fun no matter how they need to slice you.

Painful stuff. Recovery is no walk in the park, either. After nearly eight days in recovery at Sanford, I can say this with certainty.

I also can say the people who took care of me are diamonds, immigrants from across the United States and the world, each with a dazzling smile worth a million bucks.

Fusion, Part I

I’ve had daily pain from degeneration of my spine for about five years. Bulging discs, pinched spinal cord, constant pain in my hips and lightning bolts screaming down the backs of my legs. I tried everything, from physical therapy to chiropractic to steroid shots. It all helped a little for a little while but, ultimately, the pain and resulting limitations kept worsening.

The surgical team connected the vertebra above the key problem area to the one below with four screws, then inserted and expanded artificial material between them to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord. Ultimately, the vertebrae will fuse together.

Some issues extended my stay from the expected three to five days to more than a week. That’s a long stretch, but I had some great people helping me through.

Community Pain

I also had lots of time to think. Physical pain was on my mind, certainly, but another kind, too.

It’s the pain and embarrassment I feel as immigrants and refugees are targeted with accusations that they drain resources or burden communities.

One targeter is on the Fargo City Commission, others are in the North Dakota Legislature, and there are many more around the country. They call for an accounting of costs, suggesting “others” take services away from “real Americans.”

Funny thing, though. The targeters never seem very interested in balancing the scales with the value “they” bring to our communities and our country.

Immigrants and refugees work. Hard. They pay taxes. They start businesses. They diversify community identities. They share new customs, foods, music, art and clothing styles. They become citizens. Their children often go on to improve American society. They make us richer.

Oh, yeah. They improve and save lives, too. One day it could be yours.

My experience didn’t open my eyes but made me perceive the persecution of immigrants and refugees more keenly. I use the word persecution purposely; in my mind, the implication that immigrants and refugees cost too much is just that.

Cost and value are the wrong words, anyway.

Invaluable. Now there’s a word that makes the cut.

Fusion, Part II

My caretakers are from the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota. One is an authentic University of Arkansas Razorback, first one I’ve ever met. More than a third hail from around the world — eastern Europe, as well as Canada, Liberia, Nigeria and other countries.

They have melodious accents, a brilliant array of skin colors and command of many languages.

One aide came to the States in his teens, all by himself. He relocated from New Jersey because Fargo “seemed safer” and “isn’t so crazy.” He speaks five languages. I speak one. How about you?

Whether they came from the USA or the other side of the globe, they prepped me for surgery, helped me to the bathroom, refilled daily meds, monitored pain and progress, brought me food, emptied fluids from my surgical wound, made sure I could put my own socks on and walked me up and down the halls. They also got me through some really rough patches.

Their life experiences, expertise and compassion fused into one powerful, international force committed to making me better. They did so without any need for thanks or giving a rip about my skin color, religion or political beliefs.

Capital “U”

I am not unique or special, even though the nurses, aides, doctors, therapists, technicians and everyone else at Sanford made me feel that way.

They’re simply professionals living their lives, doing their jobs and applying their talents where they’re most needed. I happened to be an Everyman who needed it most.

There was no me or they. There was only us, and we made it through those eight days together. Kind of how I’d like to see Us — yes, with a capital “U” — make it through the coming decades and centuries.

The pain I’ve had for years is gone. Turns out recovery really is a walk in the park, or at least up and down my block. Each day, I feel better and go a little farther.

This, thanks to everyone who literally helped get me back on my feet, including “they” and the “others” who are as American, and as invaluable, as I’ll ever be.

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Good Fence Makes Good Neighbors

Pour, Water, Tamp, Mix, Tamp…

His name is Dennis.

Five years of living 60 or 70 yards away, just over the backyard fence, I really should’ve known that already.

I stood on his front step, shaking his hand and explaining that the posts that should’ve been holding up a couple of sections of our shared fence had rotted out. He’d noticed it, too.

Yeah, we should replace them.

Neither of us knew which of the previous owners of our homes had built the fence in the first place. We agreed to split the costs and do the labor ourselves.

Five years and we’d never even waved at each other. Two little white dogs send my three little black, brown, gray and white ones into a frenzy whenever they’re on the other side of the fence. That’s all I knew.

And on a day we meet to walk the line /

And set the wall between us once again.

We meet out back on the agreed-upon day, each on his own side, shake over the fence’s slats and start the work.

I take out the screws since they’re all on my side. Must mean the fence — and the fixing — belong to me. No matter, he says, we both need to keep our dogs on our own sides. We carry three sections, one of us on each end, and lean them against another length that runs along my property. Then we start digging around the old footings.

Dennis has replaced posts before. We can leave three sides of the old footings in, slide the new 4-by-4s right in and seal them with Quikrete® on the fourth side. Less work and easier to make them plumb, he says. Smart, I say back.

How long have you lived here? Since ’91. Wow, you’ve seen a lot of neighbors come through, I say, motioning at my house. Yep. He leans on his shovel and makes a sweeping motion. Everyone’s been in these other houses for a long time.

So it goes. Dig, talk, ram the bar into the rotted wood, scrape, dig… and I start thinking about an old story. …

We wear our fingers rough with handling them /

Oh, just another kind of out-door game / One on a side.

We marvel at each other’s tools. Who else would have a 15-pound tamper on hand? No kidding, I say, holding the tool that was once my Dad’s.

Turns out we both inherited our tools from our fathers. The cross-cut saws are almost identical. Both fathers marked them with their names; the ink’s faded on mine, and the tape is tattered on his, but they’re still there.

Good tools, we agree. Good fathers, too. They didn’t just leave us tools; they taught us the right way to use them.

This is kind of fun, Dennis says, out here working with my father’s tools. For me, too.

Holes dug, rotted wood carved out, new posts in. Time to mix Quikrete in the holes.

Pour, water, tamp, mix, tamp. Pour, water, tamp, mix, tamp some more. The bar and the flat-tipped shovel go up and down, in and out of the mix, over and over again. Hard work, we agree, but not so bad with two hard workers.

I’d work with you any day, I say. He laughs.

We keep pouring, watering, tamping, mixing …

‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

… and we talk some more.

Both self-employed. He’s an accountant, offices down by the Dairy Queen. Mine is right there, I say, pointing at a window.

He’s writing a book. It’s about the travails of caring for his elderly mother, the love-torment-respect relationship and the frustration with siblings who aren’t there when they ought to be. Funny, I say, I went through that not long ago, myself. Not so funny, maybe. He nods.

I’d purchased two 4-by-4 posts and a couple of bags of Quikrete, probably about eight bags short. He ran to the hardware store to get more.

We resume, and our stories continue to mix together as we pour, water, tamp…

Why do they make good neighbours?

Isn’t it / Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Done. Tools to our respective sheds.

Cold beer? Sounds great.

No current events, no politics. We discuss kids, the challenges and joys of raising them.

He has one, a chef now, down in New Orleans. Yeah, we get down there about once a year. No, not to Mardi Gras yet. Maybe next year. Three for me. Oldest is learning to drive. His eyes twinkle below raised eyebrows. I remember that, he says.

Bottles empty. Another shake. See you in a coupla days. Sounds good.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall / That wants it down.

We meet three days later, after the Quikrete has set, to hang the fence sections on the new posts. Quick work, that, with electric drills turned screwdrivers. Our fathers didn’t have those. Nope, sure didn’t.

The fence is good again. But is it?

Wanna compare receipts or call it square? I ask over the fence. Square, he says. We shake hands over the slats. Don’t be a stranger.

Five years and two rotted-out fence posts it took to meet Dennis. Good guy. Gonna make sure it’s not another five and two before we sit down for another cold one.

And I think, Frost was right. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. Even so. …

‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Mending Wall

Robert Frost, 1874-1963

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,

One on a side.  It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

‘Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it

Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’  I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself.  I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — N.D. Dem-NPL, It’s Time to Stand Up

And, Please, No More “Republican Lite”

Byron Dorgan once got my ass kicked.

That’s not literally true, of course. I can’t remember the name of the kid who actually trounced me in a back alley half a block from Jamestown (N.D.) Junior High when I was in the seventh grade, but it did start with our future senator.

It was 1980. Dorgan was the North Dakota tax commissioner and Democratic-NPL candidate for the U.S. House. My parents were strong Democrats, and Dorgan was their guy. They talked about his campaign around the dinner table, about why they believed he was a good man. He stood for the right things, they said.

A few weeks before the real election, one of the seventh-grade teachers held a faux one. He wrote each open office and the candidates’ names on the blackboard, and we were to cast our ballots.

I stood up before voting began and proclaimed that anyone who didn’t vote for Byron Dorgan was a moron, and I’d meet them in the alley after school.

Dorgan won the votes, that day and a few weeks later.

I lost in a landslide.

Better, not lesser

Shortly after the election of Tom Perez as the chairman of the Democratic Party this past February, progressive commentator John Nichols wrote about “The Battle for the DNC.” To be successful, he said, Democrats …

… must resist the uninspiring lesser-of-two-evils arguments that leave voters wondering if Democrats stand for anything. … Parties win when voters know what they stand for, and when what they stand for isn’t winning for the sake of winning, but a clearly defined set of values.

A couple of weeks earlier, I was speaking to a Dem-NPL activist who has worked on multiple campaigns for the N.D. Legislature and helped several candidates get re-elected. “We don’t even say we’re Democrats,” this person said. “We just talk about how they should be re-elected because of the great job they’ve done.”

A few weeks after Perez’s election, I heard about someone who didn’t want a meeting of Dem-NPLers streamed live because, “Who knows what they’ll use against us,” referring, of course, to the Republican Party.

More recently, people have been saying the Dem-NPL needs to keep its message moderate, that if we’re too progressive, we’ll lose.

Hmmm. Seems to me we’ve already been doing just that for a long while.

Values first

It’s tough to be a Dem in one of the reddest states in the Union. It can be frightening to go on record for fear something will be taken out of context and used in a campaign ad. And admitting to being a progressive in this state? Some would say that’s the political equivalent to taking a razor blade to your own wrists.

I get it. But I’ll never believe in it.

Instead, I believe in the ideas and values I absorbed growing up in a Democratic-NPL home.

Helping people who are less fortunate is a responsibility, just like protecting our children, always telling the truth, caring for family members and admitting mistakes, regardless of the negative consequences.

Everyone deserves the same shot, and if they screw up, a second. Taking care of the planet is crucial, and it starts in our own backyards. Never judge books, or people, by their covers, figuratively or literally.

All people, regardless of gender, should earn the same for doing the same jobs. We should not cede governance over our bodies to anyone. Gay, straight, LGBTQIA  — doesn’t matter. We’re all human beings deserving of empathy and respect, until we do something to lose it.

In my judgment, people who believe in these things have a right, perhaps even a responsibility, to be proud of it.

Stand strong

I say it would be better to lose 1,000 elections, maybe even 10,000, standing up for what we believe in, taking pride in our values and view of how the world should work, than to win even one race by hiding who we really are or making so many concessions our core values are compromised.

If someone beats us up verbally for what we believe, stand strong. If they take us out of context, explain again what we mean and why it matters to our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers.

Own it.

Many Democrats will say we’re already doing this. I’ve seen individuals who are, and I applaud them. But I still see a tendency to downplay in the face of the supermajority, to round off the rough edges so, presumably, Dem-NPLers are more electable.

Dig in

The Dem-NPL lost 17 seats in the Legislature in 2016 and now holds only 22 out of 141. Zero Democrats — the big ol’ goose egg — hold statewide offices.

Boy, oh boy, are we sick of those numbers. Right? But the fact is they’re only a continuation of a years-long trend. We should post them, in huge letters, next to our nightstands so they’re our first sight of every day.

Clearly, we need to change our approach.

In my view, part of that is to stop being “Republican Lite.” We need to offer a more distinct alternative. Be Democrats. Say so loudly, clearly and without flinching from what might come.

Principles and backbone — what the old-timers might have called “sand” — still count for something in North Dakota. We should dig our heels into that sand, find bedrock and stand stronger.

We’ll lose some elections, but we’ll win some, too. And I believe that, over time, as people begin to appreciate our values and the way we stand up for them, we’ll win some more.

The first thing

I got my ass handed to me in 1980. No denyin’ it.

It was stupid to challenge my classmates to fisticuffs over a fake election, and violence never solves anything.

But if you’d asked me, even then, as I picked myself up from the back-alley gravel and wiped blood from nose to sleeve, I’d have said it was worth it.

Still is.

The only place real value can be found is in staying true to yourself.

We need to stand for something. Lots of things, actually. Let’s make sure “Democrat” is the first thing.

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Put Your Sustainable Mind/Feet Where Your Mouth Is

Two Events Bringing Together Friends, Neighbors & Civic Leaders

So you say you want to protect the environment. That you’re for clean air, safe water and a livable planet. Mr./Ms. Sustainability… that’s you.

Well, then. You need to be at a couple of events coming up in Fargo, N.D., this month. They’re great opportunities to put your environmental action mind/feet where your environmental action mouth is.

You don’t consider yourself a big-time advocate? No problem. All you need to quality for participation is to be a human being who regularly draws breath.

These events will be worth your while, regardless of whether you live in Fargo. We’ll even overlook the gasoline it takes to drive from out of town.

Please come. We need you here.

Drive for a Cleaner Community

Citizens Local Energy Action Network (C.L.E.A.N.)

Wednesday, April 19, 1 to 4 p.m.

Fargo Public Library, 102 Third St. N., Fargo, N.D.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney will be headlining a list of community, industry and advocacy group speakers and presenters at the C.L.E.A.N. Drive for a Cleaner Community.

You’ll be able to see, hear and touch two of the most popular electric vehicles on the market — the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla — check out a Chargepoint commercial charging station and learn the latest about:

C.L.E.A.N. is a Fargo, N.D.-based, citizen-driven, nonprofit organization that advocates for the use of renewable energy and associated technologies in Fargo-Moorhead and, by extension, throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota. A key focus area for the group is to increase the use of electric vehicles. To that end, C.L.E.A.N. is working with elected officials and government agencies toward the development of an infrastructure of commercial, workplace and public charging stations throughout the city and the states.

The event will begin in the parking lot (weather permitting) at 1 p.m. with a welcome from C.L.E.A.N. Chairman Ed Gruchalla and remarks from Mayor Mahoney. Presentations will begin indoors around 1:20 p.m., with the event returning to the parking lot for hands-on opportunities with the EVs.

Click here for the full agenda.

People’s Climate March

People’s Climate Movement

April 29, 2017, 10 a.m.

Broadway, Downtown Fargo, N.D.

Our clean air, safe water and livable planet should be a right. Like all rights, sometimes you have to fight for them.

They’re all under assault by POTUS 45, his pick to head (read: destroy, destruct or dismantle) the Environmental Protection Agency and a complicit Republican-controlled Congress. The People’s Climate Movement is fighting back (peacefully) with marches and demonstrations across the nation.

Join them. Join me. Take a stand for the health and safety of your friends, neighbors, children and grandchildren.

Here’s the message from the organizers:

“Join the People’s Climate Movement this April 29 in Fargo, N.D. and across the country to stand up for our communities and climate.

“On April 29, we will march for our families. We will march for our air, our water and our land. We will march for clean energy jobs and climate justice. We will march for our communities and the people we love.

“Throughout the first 100 days in office, the People’s Climate Movement is organizing a countrywide arc of action, culminating April 29 in Washington D.C., in a powerful mobilization to unite all of our movements. To change everything, we need everyone.

“We’re ready to fight back, and we are ready to build a resistance to Congress’ attacks on our climate, our communities and our jobs that stands alongside the unprecedented Women’s Marches and other powerful rallies that shook the globe in the hours and days following the inauguration of Donald Trump and the 115th Congress.

“In 2014, we said that it takes everyone to change everything. Now, with everything at stake, everyone has a part to play.

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.” — Carl Sagan

We encourage responsible activism, and do not support using the platform to take unlawful or other improper action.

Click here, here and here for more information.

So there you have it. I hope to see you all there, Ms./Mr. Sustainability.

MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Slipping And Dying: Bees, Humans And The Planet

As POTUS 45 rolls back environmental protections, climate change is sickening the Earth, us and the species we depend on

The rusty patched bumble bee probably would have preferred to remain in obscurity, humming from one flowering plant to another, pollinating away and quietly contributing to the estimated $3 billion in pollination services bees and other insects provide in the United States.

Living under cover. Minding its own business. And ours.

It was like that for this valuable species, outside of entomology and preservation circles, until recently, when it was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The rusty patched bumble bee became the first bee to make the list.

It has been taking a nose dive since the 1990s, and it’s now in danger of extinction. With it could go the fate of production agriculture and life as we know it.

Kind of apocalyptic, right? Well, you know what they say: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” In this case, it’s desperate words. Undeniable ones.

The listing of our buzzing friend was just one alarming news item from the past couple of weeks. It’s been joined by:

  • A statement from a consortium of physicians and scientists about how climate change is making people sick. Literally.
  • A report that 2016 was the hottest year on record. Again.
  • POTUS 45’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan and a host of other environmental protection laws, rules and regulations.

Hot wings

Entomologists and environmental groups have been working to get the rusty patched bumble bee on the endangered species list for years. Finally, on March 21, after a delay by the 45 administration, our bee made it.

Now the question is, can the rusty patched bumble bee make it back?

According to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service press release about the listing, the species was “… Once common and abundant across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces … Abundance of the rusty patched bumble bee has plummeted by 87 percent, leaving small, scattered populations in 13 states and one province.”

USFWS Midwest Region Director Tom Melius said, “Pollinators are small but mighty parts of the natural mechanism that sustains us and our world. Without them, our forests, parks, meadows and shrub lands and the abundant, vibrant life they support cannot survive, and our crops require laborious, costly pollination by hand.”

They are mighty parts of what sustains people and our world, and without them, our crops will require laborious, costly pollination by hand.

Hello? Ag and food industries? You hearing this?

The USFWS also said climate change is one of the key contributors to the decline:

Causes of the decline in rusty patched bumble bee populations are believed to be loss of habitat; disease and parasites; use of pesticides that directly or indirectly kill the bees; climate change, which can affect the availability of the flowers they depend on; and extremely small population size.

Chances of the bee’s recovery are far from certain.

Docs apply some heat

A little item buried in C Section of my hometown newspaper March 19, and given only about 6 to 8 column inches, carried the headline, “Climate change is making us sick.”

The story was based on a report by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health titled, “Medical Alert! Climate Change is Harming Our Health.”

This group includes more than 400,000 doctors, or more than half of all U.S. physicians. It represents 11 of the top medical societies in the United States, including The American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The new consortium’s director, Dr. Mona Sarfaty, is also a professor at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. In a USA Today piece she was quoted as saying,

“Doctors in every part of our country see that climate change is making Americans sicker. Physicians are on the frontlines and see the impacts in exam rooms. What’s worse is that the harms are felt most by children, the elderly, Americans with low income or chronic illnesses, and people in communities of color.”

Direct harms to people highlighted in the consortium’s report:

  • Injuries and deaths from violent weather.
  • Lung diseases made worse by extremely hot weather.
  • Longer allergy seasons.
  • Increased spread of diseases like Lyme disease or Zika virus by insects and through contaminated food and water.
  • Mental health disorders such as increased depression and anxiety.

Speaking of warmth …

BBC News recently reported on a “detailed global analysis” of global climate conducted by the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO looked at information from 80 national weather services around the world for its work.

According to the BBC, the report “… says that 2016 was not only the warmest year on record, but it saw atmospheric CO2 rise to a new high, while Arctic sea ice recorded a new winter low.”

CO2. That’s the stuff that accelerates global warming, which contributes to the degradation of habitats, ecosystems and species like the rusty patched bumble bee.

Keep in mind, this is only the first bee to be listed as endangered. Other pollinators will probably qualify in the future, assuming the 45 administration and Congress don’t get rid of the Endangered Species Act altogether, which they’re attempting to do.

By the way, call your U.S. reps and senators — tell them to resist any effort to repeal the Endangered Species Act, any element of the Clean Power Plan or any other environmental protections. Wherever you are, call your senators (here’s a list). You can use the search tool at the top of this page to find your representatives.

Wake up world

There are thousands of scientific studies and probably hundreds of thousands of news reports about the negative impacts and consequences of climate change for communities, countries, ecosystems, waterways, oceans, societies and even the human race.

Yet the discussion of whether climate change and global warming are real is still going on. The deniers, motivated by greed or fear and led by POTUS 45, are now moving in the opposite direction from where we need to be headed.

While we continue to gnaw on that bone, proverbial canaries in coal mines, like the rusty patched bumble bee, continue to nosedive into oblivion. Remember, our friend is only the first bee to be listed as endangered; others will surely follow if things don’t change. Like, right now.

Their extinction could very well be the harbinger of our own.

Wake up, world. We’re ailing patients on a sick planet.


MARTIN C. FREDRBlow It Out … Your Gas

Call Your Senators — Oppose Efforts to Repeal the BLM Methane Flaring Rule

The splash of light in the center of North America at night, seen from space, shines like the opposite of a black eye. It doesn’t mark a big city or conglomeration of cities like the other light spots across the continent. In fact, it’s coming from where there are few cities at all.

The bright spot is the oil patch in and around the Badlands in western North Dakota. It’s flaring of natural gas from oil rigs.

It’s also cash disappearing, literally, into thin air. It’s the potential for thousands of jobs going up in smoke. It’s a resource that could help our nation be less dependent on foreign energy sources. It’s the atmosphere being polluted by dangerous methane and other toxins from an industry that comes in, tramples over a state’s public lands and ultimately leaves with millions and millions more in its stained pockets. Some of those millions make their way into the re-election coffers of members of Congress.

These are members of Congress who — surprise, surprise — want to repeal the Bureau of Land Management Methane and Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule that curbs flaring and venting on public lands.

Methane and Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule

Flaring refers to burning off natural gas that is a byproduct of fracking, and venting refers to releasing natural gas into the atmosphere.

The BLM finalized the rule near the end of President Obama’s term. According to the BLM, it’s intended to, “… help curb waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies; reduce harmful air pollution, including greenhouse gases; and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, Tribes and States.”

Sounds reasonable.

But the oil and gas industry doesn’t think so. It argues that forcing oil extractors to update equipment and technologies to capture and distribute the natural gas will be too costly and ultimately will make them less likely to keep extracting oil.

Balderdash. Ballyhoo. Bullpucky.

If there’s oil to be got, those companies will be here to get it. They just don’t want to spend the money. Instead, they’d rather keep sending ours up in flames, along with public health and the health of the planet.

And members of Congress — mostly Republican, but a few Democrats, too – want to help them by repealing the Methane Flaring and Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule.


Speaking of money …

Natural gas is a valuable fuel source. According to the Environmental Defense Fund:

An in-depth analysis by ICF International estimates that fugitive and vented losses from oil and natural gas operations on federal and tribal lands amounted to over 65 billion cubic feet in 2013. This gas would be worth nearly $330 million at current prices.

That’s $330 million of a TAXPAYER-OWNED resource that will go back to being burned off and released into the atmosphere by private, for-profit businesses. Taxpayers get ZERO return.

And according to the Environmental Defense Fund, “Nationwide the U.S. loses about $2 billion worth of natural gas every year through methane leaks and intentional releases (like venting) throughout the oil and gas system.”


The methane mitigation industry has been putting people to work in high-paying jobs, according to a study commissioned by the EDF and conducted by Datu Research, an international firm created by Duke University analysts.

A story about the research at says:

… many of the methane mitigation companies have developed effective technologies and services to capture unburned natural gas. The services “create new, well-paying American jobs for skilled workers, save industry over $1 billion in lost product and reduce air pollution.”

“These are highly skilled jobs with good pay,” Datu President Marcy Lowe said, “and they are not likely to be outsourced.”

Sounds like the kind of jobs we want in this country.


Natural gas flaring and venting puts toxic chemicals into the air that we and our children and grandchildren breathe.

Multiple sources discuss the negative health impacts of carcinogens, metals like arsenic, sour gases, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and methane released through flaring and venting of natural gas. Autoimmune problems, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, cancer and premature death are few often mentioned.

Arsenic. Carcinogens. Cancer. Premature death. These are ugly words, especially in the context of preventable activities.

Climate costs

Then there’s methane.

Methane is a big part of natural gas. When it’s released into the atmosphere, it’s a greenhouse gas that accelerates global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, cited in a piece in Scientific American, said methane warms Earth 86 times more than CO2. The negatives of CO2 in relation to atmospheric degradation are well documented.

So Congress says …

Congress wants to repeal the Methane Flaring and Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule, anyway. Right now, it’s easier than usual to do so because of what’s called the Congressional Review Act. This act allows Congress to repeal or overturn rules issued by federal agencies within a certain time period. An FAQ about the Congressional Review Act states:

Because of the structure of the periods during which Congress can take action under the CRA, there may be a period at the beginning of each new administration during which rules issued near the end of the previous administration would be eligible for consideration under the CRA.

In layman’s terms, this means this Congress can repeal or overturn rules released near the end of President Obama’s term. And they’re doing it like crazy.

The worst part of the CRA? A rule repealed under this law cannot be implemented again in “substantially the same form.” Ever. Over and out.

One Democrat who apparently is still “wavering” on how she’ll vote regarding the repeal of this rule is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is from my home state.

Badlands, bad mojo

I grew up in the Badlands of North Dakota.

I’ll never forget the gazillion stars and planets, satellites sailing along under the Milky Way, trailing across the dark night sky. I’d lie on my back in the campground across the Little Missouri River from the Burning Hills Amphitheater, watching in anticipation for the nightly fireworks that blasted over the crowd at the end of every Medora Musical performance.

Those stars are harder to see these days, thanks to the air and light pollution from the flaring of natural gas on public lands in North Dakota and elsewhere. If Congress repeals this rule, it’ll be harder yet, and the negative impacts will be felt well beyond the borders of my state.

Call your senators

Wherever you are, call your senators (here’s a list). In North Dakota: Sen. Heitkamp, (202) 224-2043, and Sen. John Hoeven, (202) 224-2551.Tell them to vote against air pollution, dangerous hydrocarbons, lost jobs and wasted funds. Tell them to vote against repeal of the BLM Methane and Natural Gas Waste Reduction Rule.

In short, tell them to blow it out. The gas.


MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — No Chance, The President

Chance has worked in the garden all his life.

“It’s a good garden and a healthy one,” he says when asked about a flailing U.S. economy. “Its trees are healthy and so are its shrubs and flowers … I agree with the President: everything in it will grow strong in due course.”

His interviewer, a late-night TV talk show host, believes Chance is speaking figuratively; the audience does as well, both those in the studio and millions more across the country. They all take him for a brilliant man who advises the president on economic policy.

He’s not.

Chance is just an agreeable, gentle and kind man of limited mental capacity who happens to be in the right places at the right times.

Within days of mistakenly being invited into a privileged conversation with the president, and making his “figurative” statement on national television, leaders of a major political party are seriously considering him as a candidate for the next president of the United States.

All Chance wants to do is watch television.

Kind of like the guy in the White House right now.

Being There

Chance is the main character in Jerzy Kosinski’s 1970 novel, “Being There,” and the 1979 film of the same name starring Peter Sellers as Chance and Shirley MacLaine as EE. She is the trophy wife of Benjamin Rand, icon of the international business community, economic adviser to the president and an old man who is close to death.

Chance has been the gardener in the house he has lived in —  and has never left — since the day he was born. The home and garden belong to “The Old Man” (not to be confused with the dying Ben Rand). Chance knows nothing beyond his garden, what he sees on TV, The Old Man who he seldom sees, and Louise, the maid who brings him his meals every day. Anything beyond that makes him uneasy.

Following The Old Man’s death in the first few pages, Chance bumbles his way from the house to the street, where he gets pinned between a car and EE’s limousine; from finding himself the Rands’ houseguest to becoming EE’s amorous obsession; from watching TV in his guestroom to participating in the previously mentioned privileged conversation, which, by the way, makes him uneasy.

When EE first meets him, she asks his name. “I am Chance, the gardener,” he says. She hears “I am Chauncey Gardiner.” And that’s who everyone thinks he is for the duration: Chauncey Gardiner, economic genius, business mogul and presidential confidant.

Hilarity — of course — ensues.

Kosinsky sets up plausible situations and contexts that lead to capitol domes full of misunderstanding, misperception and missed kisses from EE.

That scene is particularly gut-busting. There sits Chance, peeking from between EE’s arms and around her head, completely oblivious as she nibbles at his earlobes, desperately trying to see the TV across the room. She lays herself bare, proclaims her undying love for Chance, even though her husband lies dying in a room upstairs. As for Chance, well, the only action he’s interested is on the small screen …

President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
(Long pause)
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President “Bobby”: In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President “Bobby“: Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President “Bobby”: Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.
(Benjamin Rand applauds)
President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.
No Chance

As I read the novel again recently, I was struck by the similarities between the absurdity of “Being There” and the story unfolding around our own sitting president. Similarities in stark, and dark, contrasts.

  • Chance cares for the earth, trees, shrubs and flowers; President 45 is destroying decades of progress on clean air, safe water, endangered species, marginalized ecosystems and, overall, a livable planet.
  • Chance speaks only what he knows; 45 tweets and talks about unsubstantiated wiretapping and the horrors of a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.
  • Chance is oblivious to the advances of a woman; 45 brags about where he grabs women.
  • Chance is kind; 45 is spearheading efforts to take health insurance away from people who need it most; defund Planned Parenthood, which provides health care for millions of women; and drive wedges between people of different religions, races and sexual orientations.
  • Chance charms diplomats; 45 yells at them and threatens their countries’ security, economic or otherwise.
  • Chance always keeps his cool; 45 launches tweetstorms unbefitting an honest man, let alone the leader of the free world.
  • Finally, Chance is the cause of hilarity; 45 is the cause of deep divides and high anxiety around the world for the future of all people.

There is one similarity; like Chance, one of the few things 45 seems to enjoy is watching TV. However, whereas Chance watches because he has nothing better to do, and he knows nothing else, 45 is gathering intel for critiquing his lackeys, ragging on “Saturday Night Live” and tweeting about what he calls “fake news.”

No. There is simply no chance 45 will ever measure up to Chance.

And that should make us all uneasy.

“Being There” is beautifully written, with simple, straightforward language and situations that’ll make you chuckle. The film is one of those rare instances, at least for me, where the movie is even better than the book. It’s fall-down, laugh-out-loud if you have a dry sense of humor like my own. Check them out. They’re time well-spent.



MARTIN C. FREDRICKS IV: Four The Record — Who Is Behind North Dakotans For Comprehensive Energy Solutions?

As the North Dakota Senate considers a two-year moratorium on wind energy development, a definitive answer remains elusive

A group that calls itself North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions has a campaign under way in North Dakota that suggests it is an advocate for more wind energy development in the state.

More wind power development in North Dakota? Sign me up! I love wind energy, and I believe we should have more wind generation in our state.

But wait …

The pro-wind message is quickly followed by a statement in favor of “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

In my observation, wind advocacy and all-of-the-above often are incompatible, and sometimes the latter is used as cover to hamstring the former. When I see “all-of-the-above energy policy,” I read, “Drill, baby, drill!” “Dig, baby, dig!” and “Burn, baby, burn!”

Cynical, I know, but that’s my perception.

After a search for information about this group and its agenda (below), I learned from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office that North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions has filed registration paperwork saying it was organized in Delaware, and P. Scott Wilson is its president, secretary and treasurer.

Delaware? P. Scott Wilson?

First question

North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions ran a full-page, full-color ad in several North Dakota daily newspapers last week. The headline was, “84 percent of North Dakota voters support continued investment in wind energy.”

That was immediately followed with, “An ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan requires fair treatment for oil, coal, natural gas, and wind.”

As it turns out, “all-of-the-above” was in the news just this morning.

In a story in The Forum, Fargo, N.D., titled, “With near-record growth, wind industry faces stiff challenge in the ND Senate,” Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, “…said she believes in an ‘all-of-the-above energy policy.’”

Unruh is the primary sponsor of SB 2314, a bill that would put a two-year moratorium on wind energy development in the state. The bill has already passed the North Dakota House, and will be considered by the Senate soon, possibly today.

I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but I can’t help wondering …

First question: Is North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions really advocating for wind development, or is this an elaborate bait-and-switch?

Snipe hunt

When I first saw a North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions post show up on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, urging me to …

Urge legislators to give the same tax treatment to all energy sources: coal, oil and gas, wind and others. Just click below to send a letter today.

… I was suspicious.

No, I didn’t click on it.

Instead, I went to the group’s website, where I found next to nothing in the way of organizational information — no North Dakota phone number, no list of members, no statement of who is involved or why, and no explanation of what “… the same tax treatment to all energy sources” might mean in North Dakota.

More wariness. I urged my Facebook friends to beware of the group until they knew more about it, who is funding it and what its aims truly are.

Multiple calls to the number listed on the group’s website took me straight to a voicemail. I finally left a message.

An email to the address bounced back as undeliverable.

I’ve not been able to find a website for Americans For All Energy; clicking on a link provided through a Google search leads to a page promoting Squarespace, Inc.

It’s always troubling to me when it’s difficult to find information about an advocacy organization.

So I started thinking … something’s rotten in Denmark. I mean, in North Dakota.

More questions

  • Who or what is behind North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions? Who are its members? Are they North Dakotans, or is this an effort by an out-of-state interest?
  • Which individuals, companies or organizations provide funding? Who is paying for what must be an expensive campaign, with full-page, full-color ads in several North Dakota daily newspapers, radio ads and Facebook posts?
  • Who is Americans For All Energy, a national group with which North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions says it’s affiliated?
  • Why doesn’t the email address,, listed on the North Dakota group’s website, go anywhere?
  • For which bills in the Legislature is North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions advocating? The website,, does not specify.
  • What would it mean to treat all forms of energy — coal, natural gas, oil and wind — exactly the same in North Dakota? What would the result of that look like?
  • Is North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions interested in promoting wind development, or is it using that as a red-herring lead message? Is the real aim to give or continue a good deal for fossil-fuel development?

Who, now?

Organizations and businesses operating in North Dakota are required to register with the North Dakota Secretary of State, so that was my next call. While I was waiting on information about whether North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions is registered and by whom, I made several other calls.

Energy advocates in the state — for both fossil fuels and renewable energy — say they either don’t know of the group or have not been contacted by it.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said of North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions, said “I’ve never heard of them.”

A call to the Lignite Energy Council was not returned.

Nor has the organization been in touch with the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy, which the chairwoman of its board of directors says she finds “odd.”

“We have been trying to figure out who this group is and what its agenda is,” said Board Chairwoman Mindi Schmitz. “Normally, contacting organizations like ours would be one of the first steps for a group that’s interested in renewable advocacy in North Dakota, but that hasn’t happened.”

Other groups interested in renewable energy had similar reactions; they had never heard of North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions prior to seeing elements of its campaign.

Short on substantive answers

The day after I left the message for Americans for All Energy, I received a call back from Tammy Ibach, a public relations professional at LS2group, which is based in Bismarck.

She said that she is the director of North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions. She said the group is not a lobbyist group, and it is not required to have a board of directors. She said the group is a coalition of landowners and manufacturers but declined to name any. Names of some of them will be released “later,” she said.

Ibach said the group of landowners is “interested in being treated fairly.” I asked what that meant, what “fairly” would look like; she repeated they “want to be treated fairly.”

She said the group is a 501(c)(4).

Based on an IRS explanation of 501(c)(4), that means the group must be claiming to be a social welfare organization, such as a “… civic league or organization not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

She declined to say which bills in the Legislature related to wind are of interest to North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions.

Ibach did not answer a question about what equal tax treatment for coal, natural gas, oil and wind would mean in North Dakota or what the results of that might look like.

In a follow-up email, I asked for more, and more specifics, such as:

  • A list of the bills related to wind energy, land use or tax policy that North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions has an interest in, as well as an explanation as to why.
  • An explanation of how “fair treatment for oil, coal, natural gas and wind,” in terms of tax treatment, will impact development of those sources in North Dakota.

In my judgment, if that’s what the group is advocating for, then it should have a good handle on what that means and what the impacts and implications will be.

Specifically, what does North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions mean when it says it is interested in seeing that “landowners are treated fairly”?

Still lacking answers

I have not found a connection between Unruh and North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions. It’s unclear whether North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions supports SB 2314.

But that’s the problem — not much of anything is clear about this group.

Maybe there isn’t anything rotten in North Dakota. Perhaps what purports to be a push for tax policy that encourages more wind development in the state is just what it claims to be.

I’m dubious. Doubtful, even.

P. Scott Wilson? Delaware? Americans for All Energy? And whose “social welfare” are we talking about, anyway?

If I can find any more information, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, call your state senator today and urge them to oppose SB 2314. In addition, please think twice before you “like” the organization’s page, you “click to send a letter” to your state legislators, or you call your state representative or senator. Wait until you know exactly what you’re asking of them, what they’re being asked to support, and why.