STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
When thousands of people attend and millions of people watch the Super Bowl in Miami on Sunday, environmental groups hope that some people will look beyond the stadium. They want to use the Super Bowl to raise awareness about ocean health and the Everglades. Here's Alexander Gonzalez of our member station WLRN.
ALEXANDER GONZALEZ, BYLINE: Jose Melendez was visiting Miami from his hometown of San Francisco decked out in a bright red 49ers jersey. But he's not attending the game.
JOSE MELENDEZ: I'm not going. I can't afford it. It's too expensive (laughter).
GONZALEZ: Melendez, instead, was here - at a free festival put on by the local host committee that includes an environmental village.
MELENDEZ: I was shocked to see all this about environment. This is different.
GONZALEZ: There were virtual reality headsets that took people underwater without getting wet.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: We're going to slide this on your face. You see any coral?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Fishes, like, plants.
GONZALEZ: Miami has hosted the Super Bowl 11 times - more than any other city. But it's the first time that the local host committee has decided to make this kind of awareness campaign focused on the environment. They call it Ocean to Everglades.
ERIC EIKENBERG: Hard Rock Stadium sits right in the middle from the Atlantic Ocean and to the Everglades to its west.
GONZALEZ: Eric Eikenberg runs the nonprofit Everglades Foundation, one of the groups putting on this campaign.
EIKENBERG: When they turn on the tap at home to drink water, to wash their cars, to go in their pool, whatever it might be, the water supply that they're benefiting from comes from the Everglades.
GONZALEZ: Millions of Floridians get their drinking water from the Biscayne Aquifer located under the Everglades. That's partly why some environmentalists are calling for restoration of the so-called River of Grass. The large source of underground freshwater depends on the health of the wetlands. Eikenberg says the focus is not only on the Everglades but also plastics in the ocean, invasive species and algae blooms.
EIKENBERG: The last six years, we've had states of emergency due to red tide and blue-green algae. So this has become mainstream.
GONZALEZ: Florida's Republican governor got involved with the effort. Ron DeSantis announced the launch of this Super Bowl campaign on Earth Day last year.
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RON DESANTIS: We really see how just the average citizen, regardless of party, regardless of part of the state, you know, they all want to see Florida's environment tended to.
GONZALEZ: Under the previous governor and now Senator Rick Scott, staffers couldn't use words like climate change. But DeSantis appointed Florida's first chief science officer and proposed more than $600 million for Everglades restoration and water quality projects. Frank Jackalone heads the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club. His group wasn't involved at the Super Bowl but says the game can be a platform to talk about ways to fight the causes of climate change.
FRANK JACKALONE: In some ways, we're misleading the public by not talking about the bigger crises that are facing South Florida. The biggest one of all is climate change and sea level rise.
GONZALEZ: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global sea level is likely to rise at least a foot by the end of the century. Jackalone says in another 50 years, Miami might not be able to host another Super Bowl.
JACKALONE: That's how fast it's going to take for the sea level rise to make life really bad in Miami.
GONZALEZ: Fans of Sunday's game will be cheering on the two football teams, but these advocates hope that everyone at the Super Bowl will also root for the environment. For NPR News, I'm Alexander Gonzalez in Miami.
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