Scarcity is not simply natural. It is relational, in that it reveals how resources within society are handled across networks.
A relational reading of scarcity shows how the consumption of resources and the creation of lack fits into a complex system of material and social flows, many of which operate at a global scale, but have effects on very specific contexts. Scarcity is thus transcalar, often created at a macro-economic and geo-political scale, but revealed at the micro-scale. Equally the accumulation of small scarcities that operate at a local scale can create large-scale disruption (for example the effects of local structural poverty on regional economic development). This systemic character of scarcity means that designers have to think in a relational way rather than a purely linear problem-solving manner, always aware of the fact that addressing scarcity in one context might lead to the creation of another form of scarcity in a different part of the ecological and social system.
Photograph by Benjamin Minton, Design Unit 6 (Tutor Ulysses Sengupta). Copyright Benjamin Minton