|• They are ultimately connected by processes of cause and effect|
|• Those processes tend to be unpredictable both in relation to their direction, and according to context and time-span.|
To put this simply, what we think makes a difference to what really happens in our environment, but it does so in ways which are very hard to predict. Long-term consequences are swamped by short-term variations in the many parameters involved, and by other, sometimes unexpected, long-term effects.
Situations of this kind are not unusual in the social sciences. Economists, for example, cannot predict exchange rates, though this would seem on the face of it to be a relatively simple matter when compared to the task of predicting medium-to long-term environmental change and its impacts. However, the experience of economists should be seen as encouraging rather than the reverse. First, though prediction necessarily remains elusive this has not meant that systematic study of the problem has been useless. Second, economists have developed a theoretical tool, the notion of purchasing power parity, which enables useful predictions to be made about the pattern of exchange rates we would see if it was not, as it always actually is, distorted by interference from many other factors. Similarly, writers on educational change have made great strides through recognising the inherent complexity and unpredictability of their area of study. Michael Fullan (2001:95-6), for example, has written:
For the growing number of people who have attempted to bring about educational change, 'intractability' is becoming a household word. Being ungovernable, however, is not the same as being impervious to influence. And the inability to change all situations we would ideally like to reform does not lead to the conclusion that no situation can be changed … Understanding why