Visualizing Change’s researchers observed multiple live interpretations of this script in aquarium settings and conducted interviews with visitors after the interpretation. Observers found that this narrative proved to be effective in its core purpose—laying out the links between the burning of fossil fuels, the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warming of the atmosphere and ocean, and sea level rise. In the process, it also succeeded in highlighting the importance of alternative fuels, and making the argument for harnessing our interconnectivity.
Researcher: What was this presentation about?
Participant 1: The importance of being aware of what we are using as far as fuels, and the options we have—solar, electric cars, battery–operated cars.
Participant 2: How we affect the environment on earth, and how it's not that far away that it might start affecting us.
Participant 3: There was a lot of emphasis on connections, and how our connections can educate other people. So us knowing something can maybe educate others.
Participant 4: How climate change is affecting sea levels. It's going to be affecting us, so we need to start paying attention to it.
The Heat–Trapping Blanket metaphor was memorable and helped establish the link between CO2 and global warming:
Researcher: So [the interpreter] talked a little bit about CO2. So what was the link she was making there between sea level rise and CO2?
Participant: The warm blanket.
Researcher: OK, tell me about that.
Participant: The CO2 is creating a warming of our atmosphere, like a blanket on land and sea, warming the ocean.
Researcher: What’s the connection between sea level rise and global warming?
Participant 1: Fossil fuels.
Participant 2: Burning of coal. The layer that is trapping the heat in. Being aware of what we are doing.
Researcher: What did she call that layer?
Participant 3: A blanket.
The concrete example of shoreline and island loss in the Chesapeake Bay—with visuals to make the point—also proved memorable. Visitors often reacted audibly when the number of lost islands was mentioned, and many spontaneously recalled this fact in post-interpretation interviews.