Should we see a rise in our population as a problem, or an opportunity? Is there an optimum level of population? Are we simply “too crowded” to cope with more immigration? These are some of the questions raised by this week’s publication of the first results from the 2011 census, which showed the largest increase in the population of England and Wales since records began in 1801. The largest in numbers, that is: despite the headlines, the rate of growth, at 7%, is broadly similar to the rate in the decades between 1910 and 1970, and only half the rate in the 19th century (it is a mathematical truism that, at a constant rate of growth, each decade’s increase will be the largest ever).