Quiet eco-warrior João Santos of Almargem dies, aged 66

Very sad news over the festive season was the death from cancer of environmental defender João Santos.

The secondary school teacher and biologist by profession was the founder of environmental association Almargem 30 years ago and had been ever since “an activist and great defender of the Algarve’s natural heritage”.

It was only a couple of months ago that he took a step back from the causes he felt so deeply about to concentrate on fighting his illness – and according to colleagues at Almargem, there was the hope that he would win.

Thus “no one was prepared” when the news came through on Christmas Eve that João had died in Faro Hospital.

Talking to Jornal Barlavento, Almargem’s project coordinator Anabela Santos, said: “It is very very sad because he still had so much to give.

“João retired two years ago precisely because he wanted to make the time for the things he loved the most. We have all lost out, the region particularly – but Almargem cannot stop, for him! The association was his life and now it is up to us to respect the legacy and continue what he left us”, she said.

In a tribute posted over social media, Almargem describes João Santos’ “pragmatism… intelligence and resilience” the discreet way he lived, and his absolute focus on environmental struggles – often to the detriment of his own and his family’s time together.

João Santos worked tirelessly for “a more sustainable development for the region”, sometimes winning battles, other times not.

One of the many projects he helped create was the Via Algarviana walking trail that projected Almargem onto the national stage. But a lot of the work was really hard graft behind the scenes, always with a view to preserving the unique heritage of the region he had come to call his home.

Loulé council has also expressed its “deep sadness” for the loss of one of its “great figures of reference in the defence environmental causes”, recalling “expecially” João Santos’ role in “waking up the ecological consciences of generations of young people, particularly those who passed through Loulé secondary school and had the privilege of being his pupils.

“Many of his disciples today have positions of responsibility in various dominions of public and private life constituting precious human capital towards a change in mentalities and behaviours that need to change in a society with enormous challenges in the field of environmental stability”, said the council.

João Santos, born in Gouveia (Guarda) in 1952, leaves behind a wife and two children.