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"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." — Edward Abbey

The arrival of Utah's 3 millionth resident was celebrated Monday in, of course, a hospital maternity unit.

Two-thirds, roughly, of the state's rapid growth has been through those facilities, as a new baby is born here about every 10 minutes. The other third is from people moving to Utah, at the rate of about one every 90 minutes.

Those numbers overwhelm the rate of deaths and out-migration to the point that Utah, which took 119 years to amass its first million inhabitants, is expected to top 4 million in barely another 16 years.

This is what is known as a good problem to have. Certainly it is better to live in a state that attracts new residents and where families feel secure enough to be fruitful and multiply than it would be to live somewhere that discourages both.

Still. Another million people by 2031? Where will we put them all? How will they find places to live? Schools for their children? Water to drink? Even air fit to breathe?

The government did not cause this population boom. It flows from the state's natural resources, economy and, mostly, its culture, which moves people to start reproducing at a relatively young age and go on to produce large families. So the key public policy question in Utah will be how to manage all this growth. Growth which, left to its own devices, will smother everything that now makes Utah so attractive.

All those adorable infants must be educated, employed and have health care. In the long run, in theory, their enterprise and inventiveness will wind up paying their way.

But babies don't pay taxes. Meeting their needs will be a short-term burden, one that must be faced by such steps as reducing the income tax break for larger families and levying impact fees on new housing developments to pay for schools.

And expanding Medicaid.

At the same time, it should be clear that current efforts to conserve water and energy and clean up the air will not be up to the challenge of all these new Utahns. There is no way we can build enough pipelines to handle the demand if we don't stress — or mandate — water-saving lifestyles. And the appeal of our state will be impossible for new residents to see — literally — without real steps to clean our air, from updating building codes to holding all industrial pollution sources to the strictest standards possible.

The quantity of Utah lives is not the measure of success. The quality is.