Don't get me wrong, compared to his predecessors, the current pope is relatively (dare I say it?) progressive. He has made overtures to other faiths, gays, even atheists. Credit where it's due and all.
But I don't see how you can logically separate the acknowledgement of an ongoing climate crisis, and the worsening problem of overpopulation. Consumerism is certainly a substantial part of global warming and environmental degradation, but it doesn't account for, to name one egregious example, the mass extinction we're now in the middle of.
Somewhat oddly, the major areas that are and will be experiencing continued population increases are India and Africa, regions which are not necessarily attuned to what the head of the Catholic Church has to say about much of anything. China has some responsibility to bear as well, not just for the sheer scale of their population, but because they are the primary consumers of these endangered species that are being poached. Americans are obese and vulgar, but they're not buying ivory and eating tiger penis soup.
It is sickening to think that within another generation or so, we will almost certainly be without any tigers, rhinos, lions, elephants, lemurs, and many other amazing graceful creatures that used to share the planet with us. But we'll have somewhere between nine and ten billion humans by 2050, many of them scavenging and poaching and pillaging and overbreeding their way through what passes for a life, each putting toxic drops into an ocean of impending catastrophe (I defy you to find a more purple metaphor in the next, say, 24 hours).
His Holiness has very little to say about all that; in fact, he's taken the opposite tack. It's as if he recognizes that we are falling off a cliff, on the verge of a perilous precipice, and yet would rather ignore that whole pesky gravity thing.
This is not a small point. The church is never going to budge from condemning abortion, and one assumes that even the most ardent atheist or pro-choice advocate can at least understand that stance. But a smart -- and truly progressive (ugh) -- pontiff would strike a creative and useful balance by moving the dial on contraception. Again, the parts of the world most in need of that are not Catholic in the first place. But it can't hurt, and you have to start somewhere.
There's a phrase I've oft repeated in this here venue, and I sincerely believe it should be the motto or operational guideline for virtually every governing body of any size or importance: People (in the collective, aggregate sense) will not change their behavior until they understand that the cost of not changing is greater than the cost of changing. This is as true and axiomatic as noting that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. The corollary to this is that it usually takes some sort of catalyzing event to get them to realize this; life has to break one off in their asses before the light bulb finally goes on and they see that their current path is unsustainable.
You used to be able to at least count on the basic principle that individuals wanted to leave the world as good or better than they found it, for future generations, that they wouldn't want to leave a toxic shithole for their children and grandchildren. The boomers squashed that long-held precept; those motherfuckers refuse to compromise on a goddamned thing as they dodder off into senescence. They fucked us, and they're entirely cool with it. Very well then, at least own the damage you've wrought. Consider yourselves lucky we don't shut off the payout valve the second you've recouped exactly what you paid in, and then set you out on a fucking ice floe with a crate of Matlock and Murder She Wrote DVDs.
This groaning, overburdened planet cannot take much more of what we're giving it. A deity that wants countless individual souls to be actualized, only to perish early in an impending mass die-off if we continue down this road, is no friend to its believers. Like any politician, a pope has a balance to strike between the intellectual, the spiritual, and the practical. (Yeah, I know.) But time gets shorter, and the practical must start taking precedence.