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Mortgaging the American Dream: What Were We Thinking?

ISBN: 9781643438849
Binding: Hardcover
Author: R. Michael Conley
Pages: 412
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 7/14/2020

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed how quickly existing conditions can crumble under stress. A perfect storm of a different kind is approaching, and we don't see it coming. Feeling its early tremors, we are borrowing heavily on the future to sustain an unsustainable paradigm, and mortgaging, in effect, the American Dream for future genera­tions while jeopardizing our own.

In Mortgaging the American Dream, award-winning author R. Michael Conley describes the development of the perfect storm, its damaging claim on the resources that have made the American Dream possible, and how, over decades of intergenerational malpractice, it has morphed into the existential threat it poses today. Climate change, ecological destruction, crushing debt, and geopolitical games­manship are a few toxic byproducts of this "play now, pay later" paradigm. By addressing exponential threats with linear thinking and complex, systemic threats with quick fixes, we have exac­erbated the challenges.

Conley concludes with a chilling account of what it will be like to live through the perfect storm and then provides a plan showing how the crisis can be used as a catalyst for mitigating the storm's sharper edges and getting positioned for a sustainable future. A "multidisciplinary textbook with a personality," personal vignettes describe how the American Dream played out for Conley and several others who were there at the infancy of the perfect storm.


R. Michael Conley, chairman and CEO of the Conley Family Foundation and founder of Weathering the Storm, LLC, is a former senior executive of a Fortune 500 company and active on a number of boards and advisory groups. Conley graduated from the Univer­sity of Minnesota after serving in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War and later completed a postgraduate business program at Stanford Univer­sity. Author of the award-winning book Lethal Trajectories, Conley has taught college-level courses on the perfect storm and regularly posts articles on his website. He and his wife, Sharon, live in Plymouth, Minnesota, with kids and grandkids in the Twin Cities area.


"Americans know down in their bones that things are deeply amiss and that the colliding forces of geopolitical strife, climate change, debt, and ecological loss cannot go on forever. R. Michael Conley's Mortgaging the American Dream is a sober and disturbing read, but also uplifting in its vision for reenergizing the American Dream in a way that is profound and more authentic than the mythos of the past." - Michael Noble, executive director, Fresh Energy

"Sometimes a book comes along that speaks so deeply to what we all know in our hearts is true, that it permanently changes the way we see the world and our place in it. R. Michael Conley's Mortgaging the American Dream is one of those books. Read it. Give it to your friends and every elected official who represents you." - Rolf Nordstrom, president & CEO, Great Plains Institute

"As a seasoned polar explorer, I'm drawn to challenges and seek out the edge on my adventures, where I believe learning occurs. We are on that edge in society, as R. Michael Conley makes clear in Mortgaging the American Dream. Conley's book explores the systemic issues of climate change, debt, energy, geopolitical threats, and ecological self-destruction in a way that helps us see the interconnected impacts our actions are having now and for future generations. It's not often an author can make clear the interrelatedness of these issues and the trajectories we are headed toward, but Conley does so in a way that connects the dots and motivates us to awaken to the threats and take action to change course." - Will Steger, National Geographic polar explorer, and founder, Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy