I loved it.
There were talks in the morning and afternoon with great networking breaks in between: http://www.compsust.net/compsust-2016/program.php. The topics were by nature quite interdisciplinary. Generally, everyone applied the one or other computational method to a problem of sustainability. The conference concluded with a panel on Expanding the Horizons of Computational Sustainability which gave a great insight into how people things will go and how things will be pushed further. The poster sessions were extremely helpful as well and I had at least ten immensely rewarding conversations.
Sustainability is an important concept. I think it makes sense that there are systems in this universe which have a certain threshold which, when passed, there is no going back. The most prominent one is probably the threshold of runaway climate change, when the CO2 levels reach an irreversible level. But there are sustainability issues in all areas. For example, governments and societies have a threshold of disagreement. If too many people do not agree with the government they will go on streets and protest for a change, sometimes violently.
Now, if you take a step back and take a higher level perspective, then you can observe that countries with high rates of protests more or less move economically slower. Military coups are another source of economics slow down. People need to figure out if a revolution is worth the short-term loss for the estimated long-term gain. If there are too many revolutions, there certainly cannot be long-term growth. I think, that is what China is trying to prevent. Too many demonstrations would be bad for the economy so measures, sometimes harsh but certainly vast, are taken to prevent demonstrations. Sustainability is close the the idea of trade-offs. We need to give up A now to achieve B in the future. Sustainability is especially a problem with humans which tend to prefer short-term gain over long-term gain only then to suffer in the future. That is also part of the learning process. The planet earth is finite. Resources are finite. Human patience is finite. One needs to find the most efficient path through this forrest of complex decisions. Algorithms maybe can help with that. More to come!
I spent some time before and after the conference in Manhattan. I was able to put in two 13ish-mile-runs at central park which is such a nice place especially with all the water fountains. I also met up with people I had met at the conference days before. New York is unique, there is no denying. Also, who knew Staten Island ferry is FREE OF CHARGE? Amazing, right?
Also, Ithaca is such a nice place in the summer. Great nature, great weather, great pictures, see the first picture.