Is this Queensland’s most eligible scientist?
Scientists are so hot right now.
First, we had astrophysicist Dr Matt Agnew as The Bachelor and now meet Khory Hancock, the Environmental Cowboy. Hancock, 30, is willing to do almost anything to spread his message about climate science, sustainable farming and rural mental health.
And with his shirt off, abs out and his Akubra on, he's making people listen.
"I have become the best marketer in Australia," laughs Hancock, who studied environmental science and planning at the University of the Sunshine Coast. "Everyone thinks it was an overnight success but I work day in and day out and I don't stop. With the climate projections … I anticipated the future and created my own ecological niche for this."
According to Hancock, he's the only farmer in Australia, if not the world, using social media (and his looks) to challenge the world's ecological problems.
Hancock, who now lives in Weipa on the Gulf of Carpentaria coast, is only gaining momentum as the world becomes more passionate about climate change. With almost 16,000 Instagram followers, his profile is growing fast, after he joined forces with former US vice president Al Gore at a climate change leadership event in Brisbane earlier this year.
"I have big dreams and visions with it," Hancock says.
He's currently working on the pilot for a series, A Dry Hope, which he hopes will be picked up by National Geographic, the Discovery Channel or Netflix.
It all started from humble beginnings for Hancock, who grew up on a remote 12,000ha cattle property near Carnarvon Gorge, north of Roma. With the nearest city hundreds of kilometres away, it was common to be homeschooled with lessons done remotely in a "classroom hut" on his property or "over the two-way radio".
As a kid, he was always the one who asked the questions and made sure he got answers. Hancock was heavily influenced by his father, Lloyd Hancock, who was named as Queenslander of the Year in 2001 for founding an organisation to help disadvantaged youths.
His father also lit the fire within him about sustainability.
"He was always telling me, we can only do what the land permits us to do … he was very sustainability orientated and I picked up on that … I've also become passionate about educating young people too."
As much as he enjoyed growing up in rural Queensland, it was also where Hancock's eyes were opened to how cruel life can be, as he lived through a five-year drought that led to neighbouring farmers taking their own lives. These years shaped his future and lit the fire to create change.
"I learnt from a young age the complex connection we have with nature and the way we interact with it," says Hancock, who left the property to study at university.
It was three years ago, when life changed for Hancock. A break-up led him to have a "now or never" moment ("all good stories start from heartbreak," he jokes) and he decided to do what he always wanted to do; begin an environmental crusade. Hancock took a video camera to work on an outback property one day and started filming himself discussing topics close to his heart.
Just over a year ago, he had the idea to ham it up for the camera and catch people's eyes so they'd stop and listen.
First came the sleeveless shirt, then the hat and later, the abs. "To do what I do, you can't be fearful," he says. "It is an online character and persona I built to communicate the scientific messages more effectively to the public," he says.
"That persona is very different to who
I am, Khory Hancock … I'm naturally shy, whereas I've created this persona that is outgoing, a bit of a smart-arse at times, witty, quick, out there and an Australian larrikin."
As a naturally shy person, he says it took him years to build up enough confidence to step in front of a camera.
"I never believed I could be funny enough
on camera or a good enough speaker to entice people but then I realised at some point, nobody else was going to do this and nobody else had the same passion or knew as much about it as I did."
Now, Hancock is doing what he set out to do, start a conversation. Alongside environmental issues, Hancock is breaking down barriers about mental health.
"I really understand the connection we have to nature," he says. "If nature is hurting, we are hurting and that was very clear to me in the droughts growing up as a kid.
"People would kill themselves because the droughts got that bad and I can see the climate projections and the drought is going to get really bad and so are the floods, they already are.
"Everything is getting worse and our mental health is getting worse … if we don't have good mental health and if we're not happy, we can't grow or be progressive or take action on this."
It's a serious message that he likes to deliver in a playful way and it's this "visually pleasing" element to Environmental Cowboy that lures in the fans. And, it seems, TV producers.
Hancock says he's been approached to appear on "nearly every television dating show there is in Australia".
"It's a nightmare," he jokes. There have been offers for The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Love Island, The Proposal and Married At First Sight. "I must be on some sort of database now," he laughs, "they all keep ringing me and I keep saying, 'no, thank you'.'"
"It's not the right way to go for me …"
But Hancock, politely and defiantly, says he doesn't need those shows, he's out to make a difference on his own.
"I want to prove that dreams can be met and achieved if you put your mind to it and have a bit of self-belief."
You can follow the journey at @environmental_cowboy