Edward Cornish in 'The study of the future' (p. 97-8):
Most people are almost totally preoccupied with their immediate concerns. Thinking about what might happen five or 10 years from now seems to them merely idle speculation. But the fact is that the problems of today did not appear suddenly out of thin air; they have been building up, often for many years, and might have been dealt with fairly easily if they had been tackled earlier. The crisis we face today is generally the minor problem we neglected yesterday.
In addition to discounting the future, most people tend not to recognize gradual change. For example, a 2% increase per year in air pollution might attract little notice, yet it means that air pollution will double in 34 years! The doubling of the population of a city over the course of a generation means a drastic transformation of the life of that city for better or worse. Futurists generally want to identify such gradual changes, so that they can be monitored and timely action taken to avoid painful crises.
When a problem reaches the crisis stage – that is, when the pain of the situation has become unbearable – it generally gets attention. But at that point it can be solved only with fantastic expenditures of time and money, and in many cases it simply cannot be solved at all. The damage has been done, and people just have to live with it. On the other hand, a small change that is wisely introduced today can result in major improvements in the years ahead. Such a change may be likened to a seed that is planted in good soil and grows, almost by itself, into a great tree. Thus, time is a crucial element that can make things easy to accomplish – or impossible.