The article aims to interlink the basic elements of natural resource endowment, their utilisation and transformation in production and consumption, the waste generation and its shorter or longer term assimilation by nature. The waste may be transformed and appear as a new natural resource or it may be accumulated as waste being an obstacle for new development. If this circular process can be repeated indefinitely, the development is truly sustainable. However, sustainability involves many aspects, and most importantly the aims of development. That includes the meaning of value and hereby the moral/ethical framework for development. Development studies show us how differently the circular process has been evolving through history around the globe. Development is by definition building on anthropocentric values, i.e. the society is manipulating ‘nature' for maximum utility. Natural resources - or natural capital - are through the process being transformed into man-made capital. That is physical structures in locations and infrastructure with its knowledge based institutional networks. This sets the frame for utilisation and transformation of natural resources, assimilation of waste and the use of ‘nature' for creating human welfare. Whether this process is sustainable in the short term or in the long term depends on the quality of human made capital, whether it makes up for the depletion of natural resources that will allow contemporary communities around the globe as well as future generations to fulfil their needs. The articles tries to illustrate how space, as the combination of natural resources, environments and man-made capital, is the basic and most important dimension of sustainability.
The article aims at giving an overview of the basic interdependence of natural resource endowment, technological, economic and social development and their impact on development of space. The structure of space or the territorial structure hereby plays an essential role in the options of further economic and social development and its sustainability. The focus is on support of livelihoods and enhancing human welfare with the environment and not against it.