When we talk about abundance and scarcity, we should remember how vulnerable these terms are. Something that's abundant one moment could be scarce a couple of moments later on.
Let's look at toilet paper in the United States. Before COVID-19, most Americans probably wouldn't have said that there was a scarcity of toilet paper. Yet once COVID-19 reached America, so many people were stocking up on toilet paper that it became scarce. Here, we see abundance turn into scarcity due to an exceptional crisis.
Such crises tend to render the economic aspect irrelevant. It's not that toilet paper suddenly became super expensive to produce or transport. It's that the makers of toilet paper simply couldn't keep up with the demand caused by COVID-19.
We can see how economics plays a factor in abundance and scarcity when it comes to the Flint, Michigan water crisis.
In 2011, Flint had a budget deficit of about $25 million. To help save money, Flint's emergency manager terminated its 50 year policy of piping in treated water from Detroit. Instead they piped in untreated water from the Flint River. The lead pipes contaminated the water, which led to a scarcity of safe water for Flint residents.
Here, we see how economic factors turned an abundance into a scarcity. Before the switch, Flint residents didn't have to worry about their water. After the switch, Flint residents had to concern themselves with how much water they had used, since their water source was mostly limited to bottled water.
With Flint, we also see how racial and class considerations play into abundance and scarcity. If Flint was not predominantly people of color, if it was not one of the poorest cities in American, would authorities have opted to endanger their abundance of water?
It's a question for you to think about in terms of how economics, race, and class all come together to determine who receives abundance and who's left with scarcity.