We propose an analysis of environmental management (EM) as work and as practical activity. This approach enables empirical studies of the diverse ways in which professionals, scientists, NGO staffers, and activists achieve the partial manageability of specific “environments”. In this introduction, we sketch the debates in Human Geography, Management Studies, and Science and Technology Studies to which this special issue contributes. We identify the limits of understanding EM though the framework of ecological modernisation, and show how political ecology and work-place studies provide important departures towards a more critical approach. Developing these further, into a cosmopolitical direction, we propose studying EM as sets of socially and materially situated practices. This enables a shift away from established approaches which treat EM either as a toolbox whose efficiency has to be assessed, or as simply the implementation of dominant projects and the materialisation of hegemonic discourse. Such a shift renders EM as always messy practices of engagement, critique and improvisation. We conclude that studying the distributed and situated managing agencies, actors and their practices allows to imagine new forms of critical interventions.