Why I wrote Oil Babies

In the lead up to the season of Oil Babies at Northcote Town Hall as part of the Darebin SpeakEasy Program below are my writers notes for the production.

The idea of children – having them, not having them had been rolling around my head for years. I never had that deep urge – that sense that my life would be incomplete without them. Then, I got pregnant quite unexpectedly and it threw my world into a spin. Unfortunately that pregnancy was unsuccessful – but what it did, was get me thinking in a whole different way about the world in which we live, our legacy, how the choices we make every day impact our internal and external worlds.

At that time everywhere I looked on social media, podcasts, radio and newspapers, the same message was being reported  – the world was ending (or the world as we knew it was ending). Science was being interrogated in a public arena, it was contributing to government policy, it was helping win and lose elections - all because humans were having a catastrophic impact on the planet. Everyone was talking about how perilous our situation was but nobody seemed to be doing anything. Babies were everywhere. We were in the midst of another baby boom. These two things seemed weirdly incongruous.

Changing our behaviour is difficult, especially when the impact of what we do is not immediate. Behaviour change is made even harder when the structures around us support the comfortable and easy lifestyle we have created for ourselves. We do not need to walk 10km for water every morning. We do not need to stoke a fire in the for warmth. When it gets hot we turn on our air conditioning, we go to a movie – we leave the discomfort, which is usually an agitator for change. So in the developed world, is change of the scale required even possible?

Then, I unexpectedly got pregnant again. Now, I was another one of the billions creating thousands of extra tonnes of waste and CO2. Logically, rationally it was a no-brainer – but that idea was not even entered in to. This human was wanted. This human wanted to be in the world and I felt helpless and small in the wake of being so informed and at the same time so beholden to my biology. So, I listened to a lot of Radiolab. In the dreaming space that happens when I listen to the stories around science, I was inspired to let these thoughts and feelings about babies, our extinction, birth, betrayal, women’s bodies and legacy take form.

So, it is no accident that women power this play, literally and figuratively – they are driven forward by external events, they continue to cycle because of internal events. And all the while these women are under pressure – this pressure is self-inflicted, societal and environmental - it is written on their bodies; bodies that generate the energy for the play and bear the promise of the next generation. Oil Babies is about legacy. It is an attempt at agency in the face of an impossible situation.