Despite a lifetime of claiming that he wasn't out to set the world on fire, Freddie Johnson of Nashville, Tennessee, accidentally did just that when he dropped a pile of smoldering cigarette butts into a trash can which, unbeknownst to him, contained a not-quite-empty container of gasoline. The video he shot of the ensuing explosion has since gone viral, serving as a dire warning of the dangers of fossil fuel and the importance of proper waste disposal - and turning the humble factory worker into an environmental hero.
"It was really nothing special," said Freddie of his dramatic act of trash-can activism. "Just taking out the trash and dumping Mama's ashtray. And I followed the natural course of events from there. No big deal."
Others, however, have viewed Freddie's trash-can activism as highly special indeed - even going so far as to nominate him for a highly-prestigious international award.
"The Noble Prize in Chemistry, I think they call it?" said Freddie. "Which to me is crazy. I'm humble folk. I'm no nobility."
Freddie noted that upon hearing of his nomination for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, his mother, Mabel Johnson, cautioned him that many of these so-called "awards" are actually scams, and extracted a promise from him to withdraw from the contest if anyone demanded that he pay an entry fee.
"They haven't done anything like that, though," said Freddie of the Nobel Prize committee. "They've been nothing but nice. I told Mama she had nothing to worry about there, which made her feel better. She said she's praying for me to win if it's God's will."
Freddie has taken his newfound fame in stride, and says that he has no plans to stage another environmental action. "I feel that what I've already done speaks for itself," he said.
When asked to comment generally on the state of the planet, Freddie said, "The funny thing about it is, it just keeps on spinning. I haven't really got much more to say about it than that."
Downplay the significance though he might, the environmental movement triggered by Freddie's trash can activism has accomplished more in the way of reversing global warming than organizations like the Sierra Club and 350.org have managed to accomplish in the past decade, inspiring very real hope for the fate of humanity.
"Freddie Johnson represents grassroots activism at its best," said 350.org founder Bill McKibben. "With guys like him lighting fires under people to get things done, we humans just might stand a chance."